The meeting was held at 40 Martyrs church hall in Rotherham from 10:00 till 15:30. It was a high turn out and survivors and supporters came from far and wide. Rotherham has been in the news in recent years because of the exposure of ‘grooming gangs’. The meeting was opened by the Chair of Voicing CSA and if anyone is wondering who is introducing the speakers? That’s Marise Thomas who became Director of Voicing CSA at the request of Nigel Thompson, the co-founder with Phil of Voicing CSA shortly before he passed away. RIP Nigel.
Chris Harper who plays ‘Nathan Curtis’ in Coronation Street attended as an Ambassador and A few days later became a Patron of Voicing CSA whilst Sammy Woodhouse, Mandy Coupland and Augusto Gomes became Ambassadors.
It was especially poignant that real life survivors of grooming and child sexual exploitation were fully supportive of the role Chris Harper was playing and that they felt and said that it was important to raise awareness of grooming and sexual exploitation and that it was being tackled so well by the Coronation Street cast and crew on prime time television could only be for the good in protection and awareness.
It was heartening to hear from David Lean, Augusto Gomes and Brian Clare who spoke about their abuse and how they are moving forward with their lives in supporting and helping others.
David and Augusto are now both Abassadors for Voicing CSA and it was the first time that Augusto had spoken publicly about his abuse, its effect on him and his journey to where he is today. There is a tide of change in society that has seen a difference in how people how people react to emotion and was reminiscent of when Princess Diana was buried and at the service people broke out in thunderous applause as a respect and after Augussto spoke he received a standing ovation. It is as much to do with the courage of Augusto as it is to those who attended and how dealing with abuse has made many stronger and can see the value in what people have to say. More and more survivors at our meetings are showing a will and determination to ensure we are heard.
Brian Clare is truly amazing in his recovery. Members of Voicing CSA met him a number of years ago and he had been through some harrowing times but as a seasoned campaigner for survivors is finally finding his voice again and it was with great happiness to hear Brian speak in Rotherham as he has tried on a few other occasions to speak publicly but been unable to do so. Hats off to you sir, you are remarkable.
Survivors from Rotherham spoke at the meeting though due to their personal reasons which Voicing CSA respects could not be either filmed or only be shared audibly, that they came and spoke at the meeting was indeed a feat of bravery that only those who have endured what they have been through could understand. The only way that interested parties can really appreciate a Voicing CSA meeting and hear everything on the day is to attend the meeting. The courage and conviction to fighting the disease within our society by the likes of Sammy Woodhouse and ‘Ella’ is second to none. There is an audio presentation by ‘Ella’ with a slide presentation in our videos of the day. Sammy for legal reasons was able to speak at the meeting but not be recorded. We hope that one day Sammy will be able to do so and will have our fullest support in doing so.
Also at the meeting was a representative from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, namely, Gary O’ Brien, who is the Head of the Truth Project in the North East who discussed to intricacies of the Project and how survivors can participate. As Gary is a civil servant he could not be filmed but was able to be recorded off camera. It is indeed an important message and much in alignment with Voicing CSA’s mantra of ‘Ask not what the future can do for your past but ask what your past can do for the future’.
It was great to welcome a few new speakers in Rotherham, a man who has been involved in the education in schools of children in raising awareness of subjects in and around the field of exploitation and safety awareness in subjects like sexting, use of social media, grooming and exploitation. We would hope to welcome him again at further meetings as the work Andy Moore does is so very important in ‘future proofing’ the safety of the vulnerable in our community, namely their next generation.
Also joining us on the day was Victoria Myers who is a solicitor and represents survivors in compensation claims who discussed her work and approach to survivors. It was an interesting talk that opened up discussions with a few survivors in the intervals. Thank you VVictoria for your approachable manner.
Rachel Woodhouse a survivor who remains in Rotherham spoke briefly about the abuse she endured and also to talk about a forthcoming charity football match that we hope many will support and if you need to get in contact with Rachel we will pass any messages forward.
Elaine Hook shared news that is current today about a family torn apart by abuse and her message was a strong message especially when you consider that the perpetrator that Elaine is discussing has a Family member season ticket to Southampton Football Club. This is not good enough and the response from Southampton of ‘thanks for letting us know’ is quite frankly, derisory, especially considering they support the work of the Offside Trust.
It was sad but fully understandable that Danny Wolstencroft could not make the meeting as he is a valued supporter and Ambassador of Voicing CSA but due to the train strike and the fact that he has a young son to care for was unable to attend. It was quite right he didn’t as it would have meant his four year old son traveling with him on the day and involved many different modes of transport to attend. That would have been unfair on his son who would have been traveling from 5 am until almost midnight to attend with his dad. As with Chris Tuck another Ambassador and panel member of the VSCP who is so driven by the work she does had in fact double booked to attend and had to attend her sisters’ wedding. Both of these facts are shared in the opening remarks by the Chair Phillip Lafferty.
Chris managed to share a talk at the meeting by making use of our new facilities of a projector and screen and her talk was met with great interest and was given a rapturous applause at the end, though we have shared the link direct to the message you will not hear how well it was received.
The Chair of Voicing CSA, Phillip Lafferty gave a short talk on the Witness Support Services and what a survivor is entitled to from the first day of making a report to the police. It is understood that this service is not being offered by some police services in England and Wales but is the right of survivors throughout both countries. His message is that it is there, so demand it.
We would like to thank the support given to us by the security who have followed us and given us safety namely Joe and John. The technical support by Wesley and the counseling support for our meetings.
It was a remarkable and empowering day for survivors in Rotherham. Everyone of the speakers is worth listening to and every video is part of the same, a growing Voice of survivors who are Voicing CSA.
Together we are one in raising awareness and giving support for and to survivors. We are survivor led and survivor inspired to continue. Our next meeting is back in the homeland of our Chair, Phillip and is to be held in Wrexham, North Wales.