THE BLOG

Silence and Anonymity Do Not Bring Abusers to Justice

03/05/2013 17:05 BST | Updated 03/07/2013 10:12 BST
AP

Thursday felt like Groundhog Day - here was another man who at the height of his TV celebrity had been sexually abusing children. But there the similarity with Savile ends because Stuart Hall has been made to face up to the reality of his crimes and his victims got to see him admitting his guilt.

I can only imagine how that must feel - to see someone who had denied and lied his way out of the awful things he'd done to you finally saying yes, I did that, you weren't making it up.

So why did I still feel angry even when I was glad that justice had been done?

Well, frankly I am appalled because there are 13 people whose lives will have been damaged by the actions of this man. And I feel deeply sad for the victims who had carried this terrible burden inside them for so many years.

If you think about what Hall did - he abused these children at the time, and then he chose to effectively abuse them again when he was first accused. He denied everything and said the claims were 'callous and cruel'.

Basically he was saying his victims were lying and he was the one who was suffering. Right up to the last moment he was using the same techniques of manipulation that all paedophiles use to keep their victims quiet.

And yet no sooner had Hall admitted what he'd done then some voices were calling for anonymity for people accused of sexual crimes. Now at first glance you might think, yes, why should someone's reputation be smeared before they have been proven guilty?

But let's take a step back and once again think about this from the victim's point of view.

The abuser will use their position of authority, they get the victim into a position of trust and then they abuse that trust. They twist the situation so that the person who has been abused feels as though they are partly responsible.

The victim may be made to feel that they did something to encourage the abuse, that they are a bad person, that if they speak out they will get them and the abuser into trouble, and crucially, that no one will believe them anyway.

For the victim of sexual abuse it is almost impossible to speak out against this apparently all-powerful person. And it's likely as well that they will be terrified of everyone knowing what happened and having to relive their ordeal in court.

Thankfully on this occasion, Hall's admission of guilt means his victims won't have to go through the trauma of a trial. But I think a large part of why he pleaded guilty was that the publicity surrounding the accusations gave so many victims the strength to speak out, even after 20 years.

When a suspect is named in the public interest - for example when there is a child protection issue - it gives more victims an opportunity to come forward, which helps police build a stronger criminal case. And contrary to popular belief, false allegations of sexual abuse are very rare.

The first victim of Stuart Hall came forward because of the Savile investigation. And looking back to that investigation, it revealed there were hundreds of people he had abused over half a century.

Many may have felt theirs was an isolated case but could have been encouraged to speak out earlier if they had known the full extent of his crimes. If a suspect's name is not known the case against them may collapse through lack of witnesses, so potentially putting children at risk of harm.

People have to be able to make an allegation against their abuser no matter how much time has passed - a week, a month, a year, 20 years; it doesn't matter. You can speak out, you will be taken seriously and there is a good chance that justice will be served.

I hope these guilty pleas will encourage more victims of sexual abuse to come forward so they can finally get the justice they deserve.