Why I’m supporting Child Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week
Child sexual abuse is as insidious as it is pervasive. I am a survivor, and I have been campaigning to raise public awareness of this hidden topic since 2012. I want to see better laws to protect children and an environment where society is more responsive to the signs a child is at risk of abuse.
Yehudis Goldsobel founded Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week in 2016 to bring together, and amplify the voices of all those, adults and children, who have experienced sexual abuse and violence. I struck up a friendship with Yehudis after hearing about her story. She is an inspiration, she uses her lived experiences to support other abuse survivors in the Jewish community and to campaign for change.
The week has gone from strength to strength, and it is now an annual event, taking place this year from 3 -9 February. It is supported by many individuals and organisations including the Survivors Trust, Rape Crisis, and the London Victims Commissioner. Survivors, support organisations, community groups and businesses will be supporting the week across the country. There is a resource pack on the website with tools including downloadable website banners and tips for sharing the event on social media.
My own charity, Survivors of Abuse, will be taking part in the #LightUpTheNight walk. The walk takes place on Wednesday 5 February at 6pm. We will meet outside the Tate Modern at 6pm, and go through the heart of London, across Millennium Bridge and along the Victoria Embankment. We are encouraging everyone to bring along glow sticks, lights, and torches, and to wear neon and bright colours, to shine a light on child sexual abuse.
People often ask me why awareness-raising is so important. The hashtag and motto for the week is “It’s Not Ok” / #ItsNotOk. Because it is not ok that child sexual abuse remains such a hidden and taboo topic in our society. The phrase aims to empower victims and survivors, so they can feel safe and confident to report abuse, and call out those who victim blame or try to minimise or ignore their experiences.
This week, I also want to reflect on the progress we have already made. I was one of those who, after revelations about high profile figures called for the government to establish the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse. I remember meeting with Theresa May, when she was Home Secretary to discuss our experiences as survivors, and the long term impact of the abuse.
The Inquiry was established in 2015, just one year before the Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence week was founded. It is unparalleled in scope, putting child protection under forensic examination in institutions including the church, local authorities, custodial institutions and online. So far, it has made 44 recommendations, some are already being implemented. Survivors in Canada and Australia, who were sent from England and Wales on forced child migration programmes are at last, receiving compensation for the horrific, devastating abuse they experienced.
The Inquiry’s Truth Project has also heard from over 4,000 survivors of child sexual abuse. At the Truth Project survivors can share their experience, and put forward recommendations for change.
Through events like Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week, and the Truth Project, which focus on the experiences of survivors, I am optimistic that we will see the changes in policy, legislation, culture and accountability that mean the next generation are better protected from abuse.