LimeCulture was thrilled to be invited to attend the Government Summit on Sexual Violence Against Children and Vulnerable People on Wednesday 24 July 2013 at the Home Office.
The Summit was attended by key professionals and experts on sexual violence and was hosted by the Minister for Policing and Criminal Justice, Damian Green MP. The Minister’s opening speech can be found here. The Summit was chaired by Stephen Rimmer, Director General at the Home Office, and presentations were made by Keir Starmer, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Peter Davies, Chief Executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) and Paul Kissack from the Department for Education.
The aim of the Summit was to discuss the new cross-govenment work that will look at sexual violence against children and vulnerable people. A National Group has been established and has prioritised action in four key areas:
- improve multi-agency child protection so agencies are actively identifying those at risk
- further strengthen the safeguards against online child abuse
- fully equip police to deal with complex and sensitive cases
- ensure victims are at the heart of the criminal justice system
So far the group has:
- launched a consultation for new regulations for children’s homes (25 June)
- revised guidance for police officers and prosecutors to deal with sexual violence victims (11 June) launched a new criminal justice strategy including significant measures to improve the court process for victims (28 June)
- announced pilot measures for recorded pre-trial cross-examination of vulnerable witnesses (11 June)
The National Group will use the priority areas to look at the following subject areas:
- Culture Change
- Supporting Victims
- Police systems, capability and investigative practice
- Criminal Justice System- treatment and response to victims
- Local Implementation
In the afternoon session, the Summit attendees were split into the above 9 groups – based on their areas of specialism. The aim was for each group to identify issues and challenges that relate to that specific topic area. Given the breadth and scope of LimeCulture’s work and the fact that we work across the whole of the sexual violence agenda, we could have contributed to any of the 9 work streams, however, we were placed in ‘Institutions’, which is being lead by the Department of Health. The focus of that roundtable was how to ensure that children and vulnerable victims within institutions (such as hospitals, children’s homes, secure estates such as mental health institutes) are protected from sexual violence. Given what we have learned about the nature of Jimmy Saville’s offending patterns, this is a very important area of work that we must get right for children and vulnerable adult to ensure that the sort of c rime committed by Saville can never happen again.
Each roundtable was asked to come up with 3 main points from their discussions, which were fed back to the wider group. Interestingly, most of the groups came up with similar cross cutting themes. In summary, LimeCulture believe that the 3 main themes that sit across all of the 9 workstreams and the 4 priority areas can be summarised below as:
- Prevention is key.
Any prevention work around sexual violence against children and young people should be underpinned by:
- building confidence amongst children and vulnerable people that if they report sexual violence they will be believed
- every report of sexual violence being investigated thoroughly and fairly
- ensuring the message is clear that offenders will be prosecuted (and the full weight of the law will be used against them).
2. More needs to be done to identify victims.
We know that only a small proportion of victims report their abuse. There are a range of reasons for this, but we need to increase the numbers that are identified by ensuring professionals LISTEN to children and vulnerable people when they do report their abuse. Furthermore, we need to train professionals and people working with children and vulnerable people to be able to identify the victims that choose not to report their abuse. Professionals need to be able to see ‘behind behaviours’ and notice red flags and tell-tale signs of sexual violence or exploitation.
3. Support for victims must be of the highest quality
Once, victims are identified as having been sexually abused or exploited, we need to ensure that high-quality support services are available to respond to their needs effectively. They must have access to the right service, at the right time. Professionals should be trained to understand what support needs the children or vulnerable adult might have after experiencing sexual violence, and importantly, we need to make sure those services are available and are of the highest quality. Such services should be planned, commissioned (funded) and effectively monitored to make sure they meet the needs of the people who use the services. Such services should be integrated with other services that the victim may be using or need and referral routes to and from specialist support services should be properly understood with appropriate care pathways in place to support victims.
LimeCulture welcomes the new work, focus and commitment around sexual violence against children and vulnerable people and we are keen to be involved as it progresses. However, we are keen to ensure that all forms of sexual violence have Ministerial Priority and we urge Damian Green not to forget the wider sexual violence agenda.