Survivor abuse body’s “unacceptable and unethical” say experts who designed it.

Herald Scotland   26/09/16

A BODY that supports adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse has been attacked as “unacceptable and unethical” by the experts who originally helped design it.

Sarah Nelson and Anne Macdonald advised on and helped the Scottish Government establish Survivor Scotland, which aims improve the lives of people who have suffered abuse.

They have written an open letter to ministers, published in today’s Herald, protesting over the new direction the strategy is taking. They argue it has lost sight of what survivors actually need and want. It is signed by leading figures from charities working with adult and child victims of abuse across the country.

They say the national strategy for survivors of childhood abuse has changed from one supporting victims to help each other and shape the services they need.

The authors of the letter say it now ofoffers mostly medical and psychological support to adult abuse survivors and removes funding from any form of group support.

They argue the government would never treat victims of rape or domestic violence the same way, and say people abused at children have suffered a crime not a disease.

It is unthinkable, they add, that any political party or local council would treat survivors of other crimes as “weak” people who are only offered post-traumatic support or medical “interventions”.

Current policy gives no active role to survivors of sexual abuse in shaping Scottish strategy despite their wisdom and experience, the letter says, a situation they also describe as “unthinkable”.

Meanwhile experienced organisations have been required to justify their existence and provide business plans before they can bid for funding, it is claimed. The treatment of established charities supporting survivors as “amateurish outfits” is shameful, the letter says. Eleven experts have signed the letter including Janine Rennie, chief executive of Falkirk based Open Secret, Laurie Matthew, manager of Dundee-based child abuse charity 18 and under, Dawn Fyfe of Glasgow’s Say Women and Jan MacLeod of the Women’s Support Project.

The experts also claim abuse prevention and protection from abuse have fallen off the agenda.

“This is unacceptable and unethical. SurvivorScotland strategy is now at odds with the original intention of this pioneering Scottish initiative. It was survivor centred, working actively with survivors and their agencies in shaping it.”

The letter added:

“Current adult survivor strategy flies in the face of longstanding Government principles on opposing sexual violence, putting Survivor Scotland and its funding policy strongly at odds with Scottish Government strategy against rape and domestic abuse.” 

The attack adds to the pressure on Deputy First Minister John Swinney over policies relating to adult victims of abuse, at a time when the troubled Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry is still facing criticisms from victims groups.

Survivor Scotland will offer support to those taking part in the inquiry, but will also cover others affected outside care. Around 80 per cent of adult survivors of child abuse say they were harmed at home or in the community.

Sarah Nelson said Survivor Scotland had lost its way:

“It is treating survivors as people who are ill, not as people who have something positive to contribute to their own recovery. The principle of survivors supporting each other has disappeared. I’ve lost all confidence in this team and I don’ t believe what we’ve got shows respect for survivors of sexual abuse or their long-standing supporters,”  she said.

Janine Rennie added: “The charities involved are all of the same view – the model on offer is completely inappropriate for survivors. This is not what was intended when Survivor Scotland was set up, survivors are being let down. Across the board, survivors are telling us this isn’t what they want.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said:

“We have made real progress in delivering what survivors told us they wanted through the InterAction process, including a greatly expanded support fund of £13.5 million over five years to co-ordinate access to and deliver resources, integrated care and support for those who were abused in care. The new services have been shaped and informed by nationwide consultation and engagement with survivors and service providers.  It is incorrect to suggest we are solely focused on treatment or exclusively on survivors of in-care abuse, as we are delivering a clear strategy for prevention, awareness-raising, training and innovation in third sector practice, as well as improving treatment where this is needed.”  SOURCE