A letter to Theresa May

10:20 am, September 25, 2017

The purpose of Paddle to Parliament is to draw the attention of politicians and decision-makers to the current challenges faced by Southmead Project and many other charities providing child abuse support services due to inconsistent or non-existent funding of their activities. Currently the police handle a call relating to child sexual abuse (CSA) every 10 minutes (NSPCC – Freedom of Information sources 2017). Many other children will be facing other forms of abuse as well as CSA and it is likely too few of them will have access to appropriate support services. This situation is the same for those adult survivors of child abuse, who are experiencing post-traumatic disorder (PTSD) and using drugs, alcohol and other ways of self-harming as a direct consequence of that trauma (NHS Clinical Guidelines 2017).

Southmead Project acknowledges research findings from such informed sources and also information that indicates the formation of the brain of a child, born into and brought up in an unsafe and abusive environment, is different from that of a child from a safe, caring and loving environment (Fisher, Seigal et al).The resulting post-traumatic stress disorder brought about by abusive environments will often lead to damaging, unsafe and potentially life-threatening coping mechanisms. Such extreme methods of surviving are often accompanied by prescribed medication and/or misuse of illegal drugs or alcohol being adopted by victims of abuse, simply in order to try to cope with the awful nightmare of abuse and to manage their lives as indicated in the new NHS guidelines defined above.

The correlation between what has happened in a person’s early life and later self-harming behaviours in adulthood, has long been recognised as the main reason why so many survivors of child abuse end up in either the criminal justice system, the NHS or both. While there is still a distinct lack of researched evidence to show the true cost to the state in financial or human terms of child abuse, the sheer number of people trying to access support services such as that provided by Southmead Project and the subsequent growing waiting lists across the country is clear evidence of the huge demand.

In order to address these issues and on behalf of victims and survivors I am asking for ways to be found where Parliament can unite in order to consider the problem in its entirety, identify appropriate budgets that are consistent and essentially extend beyond the government’s term of office.

The ludicrous situation that exists where we clearly know the extent of child abuse across the spectrum (sexual, physical and emotional) but provide insufficient funding to tackle the issue is unforgivable and most regrettable. This appeal for positive action that comes on behalf of so many people must surely be heard and subsequent action taken. The message this would send out to the many thousands of these innocent victims of crime would be so welcome and have extremely positive, effective ramifications across the country.

The very fact that I and a number of colleagues have had to resort to an outrageous stunt in order to draw attention to this matter speaks volumes for the frustration caused by this deplorable situation. I therefore ask that this item be placed on the appropriate Commons agenda to be discussed in open Parliament and an end be put to this most appalling of circumstance.

Dr MJ Peirce MBE FRSA

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