There's nobody to help victims of sexual abuse

By Gareth Wyn Williams   |   Local democracy reporter   |
Thursday 3rd December 2020 3:00 pm
Christine Urquhart, founder of the Ellan Vannin Victim Service

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She lived at Knottfield children’s home from the age of two on and off since 1975 and then full-time between 1980 and 1982.

Now Christine Urquart is determined to help others like herself who have been victims of sexual abuse.

She is preparing to launch a new Manx charity, Ellan Vannin Victims Service.

Christine, 46, of Douglas, said it will address the pitfalls of the current system. She said: ’The charity is aimed at victims of sexual abuse and to help them in any way they need.

’It will provide a listening ear and empathy from someone who’s been there.

’We can support them through police interview, the court case and give them their power back - get them back to where they were heading, a survivor to thriver service.’

Christine has welcomed the new Sexual Offences and Obscene Publications Bill, whose LegCo amendments were unanimously approved in the House of Keys last week and is expected to get royal assent in the new year.

The bill increases sentences for a range of offences and introduces new laws for offences such as online grooming. ’Offenders have found new ways of abusing people since the legislation was last updated, something no one could have possibly imagined when the internet was first introduced,’ said Christine.

’We are moving in the right direction but where it is falling down is in the service provision and care for the victims. We need to support them and provide stringent and consistent care and health provisions. Presently there is nobody there to care for them. No one is looking out for victims’ rights.

’There is a victim shaming and blaming culture from the moment they go to the police or seek medical advice. Victims not only want somebody to understand them, they need to be believed, validated’.

Christine said there should be more streamlining of prosecutions. ’It should not take two years to take your abuser to court. Victims should not be expected to live in that space for that long, and that’s the system’s fault,’ she said.

One clause in the Bill that she opposes is that giving anonymity to defendants in sexual abuse cases.

She admits it’s a double-edged sword. ’If someone is falsely accused, they and their families become victims too.’

But she believes that naming defendants in court gives other victims the strength to come forward. ’It’s rare for there to be only one victim. If you don’t catch them now there will be more victims,’ she said. ’If we catch them before they reach the age of 25 then we have the opportunity to turn them round with the correct rehabilitation programme in place; albeit this is dependent upon their character.

’Beyond 25 I believe a pattern of behaviour has been established which will be more difficult to rehabilitate.’

’We also need to try and understand why abusers themselves are so young. Is it lack of education in these matters; or is it a societal issue? Are we desensitising our children? Is pornography too easily accessible? These are things that we need to ask ourselves and investigate further.’

Asked about the idea that abusers should get more support to aid their rehabilitation, she said: ’Abusers are supported from day dot. These people are as manipulative with the authorities and the system, as they are with their victims.’

Christine will have the help of two volunteers and says the charity will seek to work alongside other agencies and departments to provide clear pathways of care, support and protection for victims.

Another piece of legislation which she believes is another step forward is the Statute of Limitations which was passed and approved in October 2019. This updated piece of legislation has removed the three-year time limitation for victims of abuse to claim compensation.

You can contact Christine on her Facebook pages Appropriate Sentences for Child Sexual Abuse or Ellan Vannin Victims Service.

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