In this episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast, Alan Collins and Feleena Grosvenor explore the face mask exemption in relation to survivors of abuse.

Although a vaccine is in sight, it is likely that face masks and coverings will be required for some time to come and it is important to raise awareness on this subject.

Over several months’ rape survivor, Georgina Fallow, has been calling for the government to “educate” the public about face-covering exemptions and for guidance to be clearer in relation to why individuals may not be wearing a face covering.

Ms Fallow wrote a letter to the government, which was co-signed by MP Bambos Charalambous and by charities including Mind, Mencap, Sense and Disability Rights UK, which asked the government to promote the Hidden Disabilities charity's Face Covering Exemption Card, and to launch an awareness campaign to publicise the exemptions.

Ms Fallow explains that there are a number of people who simply cannot wear a mask due to the psychological harm it causes. She, for example, experiences traumatic flashbacks that are akin to hallucinations. She describes them as “so real as to effectively plunge me back into the worst of the experience”. The flashbacks can be so severe that police officers and paramedics have had to hold her down, sedate her and take her to hospital.

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch with Alan Collins or Feleena Grosvenor.

A 13-year-old girl’s death hit the headlines in November of last year after she was raped and murdered by her family’s 25-year-old house lodger, Stephen Nicholson.

Lucy McHugh was lured to local woodlands in Southampton in 2018. She was then raped and stabbed 27 times resulting in her death.

The police inquiry into Lucy's death became one of the largest murder inquiries in criminal history with over 200 officers involved, spending over 1500 hours trawling through CCTV footage in the search for her killer.

At trial, jurors heard Nicholson murdered Lucy after she threatened to reveal he had been sexually abusing her.

Nicholson is now serving a 33-year prison sentence following his conviction for murdering Lucy and three counts of raping her when she was just 12 years old. He was also found guilty of one count of sexual activity with another girl, who was 14 years old.

Following Lucy’s death, an independent report was commissioned by the Southampton Safeguarding Children Partnership. The report is heavily critical of both social services and the police for missing several chances to help Lucy. 

Nicholson had past convictions for both battery and domestic violence. He then stole £1,000 while holding a blade to a female resident's throat and made off in a staff member's car, before being caught by police. While serving two years in a youth detention centre for that incident, he and two fellow inmates barricaded themselves in a canteen before he again armed himself with a knife and tried to stab a prison guard.

The report found social services did not do enough to act on concerns raised by Lucy's school that she was being sexually exploited by an older boyfriend. Lead reviewer Moira Murray said social workers considered the concerns had “no foundation” because they were given “assurances” by Lucy’s mother.

Ms Murray said a lack of information sharing between the council's Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (police, school and children's social care) was a "missed opportunity" and meant Lucy's case was not treated as one of child protection.

The service, which is intended to 'protect the most vulnerable children from harm, neglect and abuse', upon receipt of a referral should identify 'the needs, and the child or family will be referred or signposted to the relevant contact or information'. However, the report says this did not happen and schools concerns, which were raised by teachers, did not pass the first stages of the referral.

It was also revealed that the city council's Children's Social Care team was aware of Nicholson's convictions, but this information was neither acted upon, nor shared.

Sadly, if the safeguarding processes were followed, they may have unearthed details of Nicholson's relationship with Lucy and potentially prevented her death.

Hampshire Police's Supt Kelly Whiting, district commander for Southampton, said the force was 'identifying improvements following this tragic death'. He added: 'The training of officers reflects the need to understand the complex impact of adverse childhood experiences. As part of this, we are already developing a trauma informed approach to dealing with all incidents involving children. 'We will continue to work with our safeguarding partners to further improve the way we protect vulnerable children.'

The city council's executive director of children's wellbeing, Rob Henderson, said the authority 'remains deeply saddened by this tragic case'. He added: 'On behalf of the council I would like to apologise to the victim's family, friends, and all who knew her, for the council's shortcomings identified in the report. We accept the findings and its recommendations. We have already made changes in a number of the areas highlighted. ‘Independent reviews of the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) and the Public Law Outline process have already taken place and their recommendations have been implemented'. 'We are determined to keep improving, with the new senior leadership team overseeing the delivery of a comprehensive Improvement Plan for our Children and Learning service'.

It is disappointing that once again due to failures in communications with multi agencies and following of processes, concerns were not followed up in this case which could have prevented Lucy’s death. It is clear the report has highlighted the need for change and it is hoped that this will be implemented not just in Southampton but further reaching to other local authorities and multi agency bodies to prevent this tragedy happening again.

If you are concerned about the welfare of a minor there are a number of organisations you can talk to in addition to the police, social services and agencies that you may contact:

  • Victim Support Line - Offering emotional and practical support for anyone who has been a victim of crime. Telephone: 0808 1689 111
  • NSPCC - 0808 800 5000
  • Child Line
  • Respond - Support for people with learning disabilities and/or autism who have experienced trauma and abuse. Telephone: 0207 3830 700 /admin@respond.org.uk

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. You can contact Alan Collins at Alan.collins@hughjames.com or Danielle Vincent at Danielle.vincent@hughjames.com.

Over recent years we have seen the #metoo movement make waves in the media, triggering much discussion on the topic of sexual abuse and harassment. It is fair to say that, previously this behaviour would have gone undiscussed and sadly, largely ignored.

Numerous household names have disclosed abuse in the film industry when the Harvey Weinstein cases became public following a 2017 publication. Models, actresses, personal assistances, the list goes on, all came forward disclosing abuse which spanned decades. Some of those who were brave enough to disclose information about their abuse can be found here.

We saw the release of film “Bombshell” at the end of 2019 which told the true-life accounts of three women at Fox News who set out to expose CEO Roger Alies for sexual harassment. Once again this film raised awareness and kick started conversations regarding this inappropriate behaviour many have faced. The film “The Assistant” was also released in 2019 written by Kitty Green exploring sexual harassment faced by a female junior assistant.

Of course, sexual abuse and harassment in the workplace is not limited to the film industry and affects both men and women.

An American study found that 1 in every 4 women experience sexual harassment in the workplace. A similar poll found 1 in 10 men experience sexual harassment. The study found a fourth of men are concerned of becoming falsely accused of sexual harassment.

The study found the Top 5 Industries with Highest Sexual Harassment Incidents:

1. Business, Trade, Banking, and Finance
2. Sales and Marketing
3. Hospitality
4. Civil Service
5. Education, Lecturing, and Teaching

A UK investigation called “Still just a bit of banter?” conducted by the workers’ union, the Trades Union Congress (TUC), in association with feminist activist Laura Bates’ Everyday Sexism Project, found that 63% of young women between the ages of 18 and 24 had experienced sexual harassment compared to 52% of women of all ages. 

There is not a strict definition of what constitutes sexual abuse or harassment in the workplace, it is based on how the victim feels about the behaviour.

Harassment can include physical, verbal and nonverbal harassment. This can include for example; inappropriate jokes or comments, lewd emails, pornographic images or images of a sexual nature in the workplace. Sexual abuse may include comments about clothing or appearance, physical touching or staring at a person’s body. This in not an exhaustive list.

The Equality Act 2010 explains that sexual harassment can often have the impact of affecting someone’s dignity, creating an intimidating, humiliating or hostile environment for them.

Regarding liability for such behaviour, anyone who sexually harasses someone in the workplace is responsible for their own actions. However, in addition, employers can be responsible too under the term 'vicarious liability' and could be liable for civil claims for failings if they have failed to implement procedures and safeguarding.

Employers must do everything they reasonably can to make sure their employees and workers are protected from sexual harassment. Employers must adopt a clear policy for sexual harassment which must also set out the steps to be taken if someone feels they are being harassed. Training should be implemented, and regular refreshers completed by employees to ensure everyone is acting appropriately in the workplace and employees are protected.

In September 2020, Tory MP Charlie Elphicke was found guilty of three sex attacks after groping the breasts of two younger women and handed a two-year prison sentence. He had been Dover MP from 2010-2019. The former MP was also ordered to pay £35,000 in costs. This case is mentioned here to highlight that this individual was a trusted person with a successful career and was at one point a partner of a law firm. Such abuse takes place in Britain today, an abuser can take any shape and this should not prevent a victim coming forward.

The Law Gazette reported how law firm Reed Smith has apologised for its handling of sexual harassment allegations against Elphicke, the former partner at the international firm. Reed Smith have confirmed they have opened a review last month into allegations made by a former colleague’s of Elphicke in 2005. The review came after the former staff member told the Guardian newspaper that she left Reed Smith’s London office because of Elphicke's behaviour.

Safeline provides guidance and support if you have been affected by this article.

It is important to highlight that anyone of any gender, in any role, and in any industry can be subject to sexual abuse and harassment.

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. Please get in contact with Alan Collins or Danielle Vincent.

Recently on our podcasts we discussed abuse in sport and more specifically in Wrestling. This week we turn to Ballet.

Ballet students, as with many sports, start at a young age. Those focussing on such a career may attend specialist schools and spend hours alone with coaches forming strong bonds in the hope of progressing their career.

We previously discussed the risks of coach - student relationships and the NSPCC campaign ‘Close the Loophole’ (#CloseTheLoophole) which aims to change the law regarding positions of trust to be extended to include any adult (in this scenario coaches) who holds a position of power over sixteen or seventeen year-olds.

In the summer of 2020 a ballet school in Scotland became the centre of a probe into claims of ‘inappropriate sexual behaviour’ by staff member, Jonathan Barton, towards students.

Victims stated how the teacher targeted the quiet vulnerable girls. One victim confirmed how Barton would message her, which slowly increased to asking her to attend his room at night. Barton and the student entered a sexual relationship when she was just sixteen.

ITV News investigated and heard from more than sixty women alleging abuse going back as far as 2004 and as recently as 2018. This resulted in the resignation of Barton.

Such reports again highlights safeguarding issues for children in the sports world and further areas where children spend significant time unsupervised with adults.

These allegations in the Ballet world quickly follow the 2019 news headlines that former Royal Ballet star, Stephen Beagley, sexually abused girls he taught in private lessons. This resulted in him being jailed for ten years. Beagley was convicted of abusing three girls aged nine, ten and twelve during private ballet lessons between 1997 and 2010. He pleaded guilty to five counts of sexual assault, two charges of indecent assault and one of causing a child to engage in sexual activity. Beagley was sentenced at Lewes Crown Court.

Beagley was a well known talented dancer and had held lead roles in Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, Cats and performed with Freddie Mercury.

For many years Beagley was a guest teacher and the head of the adult ballet programme for the English National Ballet. He had taught around the world including Italy, America, Australia and Hong Kong.

With such experience and skill he would have been held in high regard to his students and placed in a position of trust. As with many abusers, he would have used his position to manipulate his victims. A victim states "Beagley targeted the young girls he came into contact with and abused them while they were at their most vulnerable over many years."

Again abuse in sport or these types of institutions require exposure and sufficient safeguarding measures to stop predators.

At the time of writing, further media articles have disclosed abuse by coaches in cycling and tennis, once again highlighting the lack of safety in sporting industries.

If you are in distress or need some support, the following charities can also help:

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. You can contact Alan Collins at Alan.collins@hughjames.com or Danielle Vincent at Danielle.vincent@hughjames.com.

 

In this week's episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast, our Partner, Alan Collins, talks to Nicole, a sexual abuse survivor about her experience of going to court when her abuser was prosecuted.

Nicole’s case is interesting not just because of her story and the experiences she shares with us, but for two particular reasons:

  1. There was a “Goodyear” hearing; and
  2. The judge made a Criminal Compensation Order

What is a “Goodyear” hearing?

This is the procedure by which a defendant can obtain an indication as to the sentence to be imposed upon a plea of guilty “and  is governed by the decision in R v Goodyear[2005] EWCA Crim 888). At the defendant’s request, the court can indicate the maximum sentence it would impose were the defendant to plead guilty at that stage of the proceedings. Proceedings should be held in open court.

In Nicole’s case, the defendant’s lawyer asked the judge what would the sentence be? Having been advised a suspended prison sentence, the defendant pleaded guilty and was duly sentenced.

In the podcast Nicole explains how she felt at the time, and offers her reflections.

Criminal Compensation orders

The criminal courts on sentencing offenders are required to consider making a compensation order which is defined in the Powers of Criminal Courts (Sentencing) Act 2000 (PCC(S)A 2000), to mean an order which requires the offender to pay compensation for any personal injury, loss or damage resulting from the offence.

Unfortunately, many, if not most victims of sexual abuse are not awarded compensation.

Nicole is something of a rarity because as she explains, she was awarded compensation.

We have raised with both IICSA and the UK Parliament the fact that so few orders are made, when clearly in many cases they should be.

The APPG Adult Survivors of Child Sexual Abuse in its report said:

“Survivors’ experiences of court and applying for compensation” wrote:

The inquiry also heard how judges are not using their powers to issue Criminal Compensation Orders at the conclusion of a trial, with only 26 issued in 2017. Of those awarded, some were as low as £20 for the ‘rape of a male child under 13’.

We will be asking Westminster to tell us what progress has been made to remedy this glaring defect in the justice system.

At the end of September, ITV broadcast drama ‘Honour’ based on the true story of the murder of a young woman Banaz Mahmod in Britain in January 2006.

Banaz had left her arranged marriage and met a young Iranian man of her own choice. Banaz went to the police on 5 separate occasions disclosing rape by her husband and threats to her life by the local community after she left him. Banaz had herself predicted in December 2004 that her family were plotting to kill her when she had visited a police station. No further action was taken by the police at this time.

In January 2006, three men (Banaz’s cousins) tortured, raped and then strangled to death then 20-year-old Banaz in the sitting room of her parents’ home in southwest London. Her body was later found discarded in a suitcase after her boyfriend alerted authorities she was missing. The disposal of her body arranged by her father and her uncle.

Although shocking to hear that honour killings and honour abuse continues in Britain today, sadly this is not as a rare as we would believe. Hannana Siddiqui, of Southall Black Sisters, which works with victims of violence against women in south Asian and African communities, says: “Our helpline gets about 7,500 calls a year. That’s a mixture of domestic violence and honour-based violence. And this year, during lockdown, there was a huge increase in helpline calls. There’s also research that suggests 12 honour killings take place a year. But it’s hard to say the figures because it is a hidden crime.”

The true figure could be much higher when considering that some killings may be commissioned or planned in the UK, but the act is committed abroad. Worldwide it is estimated that there are 5000 honour killings a year.

Banaz’s case and those like it also lead to conflicting instincts as a desire to be anti-racist leads to fears of racially profiling and stereotyping Muslim men. Afzal faced this dilemma directly, having, in another part of his career as a crown prosecutor, overturned the original decision not to prosecute a group of largely Pakistani-heritage men who were grooming and sexually abusing young women in Rochdale. He said “The law has to operate without fear or favour across the board. When you have something which is not a new crime, but one being prosecuted for the first time, you can’t afford to think about which communities might be disproportionately implicated. Eighty-four per cent of sex offenders in this country are British white men. Are we saying all white men are like that? Of course not. You have to take the same attitude to forced marriage and honour-based violence in the south Asian, African and Middle Eastern communities. 

  • Honour based abuse is a broad umbrella term used to describe a combination of practices used principally to control and punish the behaviour of a member of a family or social group, in order to protect perceived cultural and religious beliefs in the name of ‘honour’. Although predominantly associated with women and girls, male members of a family can also be victims of breaking the ‘honour code’, bringing disgrace to their family or social group. Perpetrators will feel that they need to restore their loss of face and standing within their community.
  • There is no statutory definition of honour based abuse. However, the National Police Chief Council (NPCC) have provided guidance and a definition to Police Forces:
  • ‘an incident or crime involving violence, threats of violence, intimidation, coercion or abuse (including psychological, physical, sexual, financial or emotional abuse), which has or may have been committed to protect or defend the honour of an individual, family and or community for alleged or perceived breaches of the family and / or community’s code of behaviour’.

In the UK honour-based abuse is a hidden crime with victims often unable or unwilling to come forward, crimes can be broad, ranging from threats and intimidation through to kidnap and murder. Honour abuse is often premeditated, a conspiracy with the shared belief that the victim must be killed or punished. They can involve various members of the family. In some cultures, ‘forced suicide’ is used as a substitute for a honour killing. When an honour crime has been committed, the community will often close ranks to protect the perpetrators. This may include, hiding those responsible, arranging for them to leave the UK, or providing false alibi’s.

Triggers for honour based abuse can include rejecting a forced marriage, interfaith and inter-race relationships, renouncing a faith, loss of virginity, coming out as being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT), adultery, being to ‘westernised’ by inappropriate make-up or dress, kissing or being intimate in a public place etc.

As was portrayed in the drama, there may be an element of ‘surveillance’ and control by the family or community members. In the case of adults this might present where the victim is routinely accompanied to and from a place of work. In children or young people, they may be driven to and from school, not able to walk or travel on public transport with friends, they might field a high number of phone calls from family members or their spouse. They may look uncomfortable taking the calls, quiet and withdrawn afterwards, a victim may be accompanied to the doctors by a family member or spouse, there may be noticeable levels of absenteeism, lateness at school, college or employment.

Other indications of honour based abuse can be found here.

Honour based abuse is also closely linked with forced marriage. The Marriage Act 1949 and the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 govern the law on marriage in England and Wales. The minimum age at which a person can consent to marriage is 16. A person between the ages of 16 and 18 may not marry without parental consent (unless the young person is already a  widow/widower). A marriage will be void if either party to the marriage did not validly consent to it, whether in consequence of duress, mistake, unsoundness of mind or otherwise.

Forced marriage became a criminal offence in the UK, in 2014.The Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014 makes it illegal for:

  • a person to use violence, threats or any other form of coercion for the purpose of causing another person to enter a marriage without their free and full consent. Coercion includes emotional force, physical force or the threat of physical force and financial pressure
  • take a person overseas to force them to marry (whether the forced marriage takes place or not)
  • practice any form of deception with the intention of causing another person to leave the UK for the purpose of causing another person to enter into a marriage without their free and full consent
  • marry a person who lacks the mental capacity to consent to the marriage (whether they’re pressured to or not)
  • breach a Forced Marriage Protection Order
  • Lack of mental capacity – The Mental Capacity Act 2005 applies to all people aged 16 and over. In summary where a person lacks capacity to consent to marriage, that marriage must be viewed as a forced marriage whatever the reason for the marriage taking place. It prevents a parent form being able to give consent on behalf of a person who lack the capacity to give their own consent.

In 2017 the UN’s International Labour Organisation (ILO) together with the Walk Free Foundation produced the report ‘2017 Global Estimates of Modern Slavery’ which looked at the worldwide modern slavery problem. For the first time they included in their data, the figures relating to forced marriage. They estimated that in 2016 a staggering 15.4 million people were trapped within a forced marriage.

Karma Nirvana is a UK charity that supports victims of honour-based abuse and forced marriage. Founder and Director, Jasvinder Sanghera CBE, highlighted that victims of forced marriage needed to feel confident in coming forward.  You can find further information here https://karmanirvana.org.uk/ | 08005999247 | infor@karanirvana.org.uk

Other Support Lines:

         Southall Black Sisters: southallblacksisters.org.uk/

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. You can contact Alan Collins at Alan.collins@hughjames.com or Danielle Vincent at Danielle.vincent@hughjames.com.

Sammy Woodhouse has campaigned tirelessly over the years for awareness following her brave disclosure of the abuse she suffered as a teenager.

The bestselling author of ‘Just a Child’ contacted The Times newspaper in 2013 and handed over evidence that proved she was abused and failed by authorities.

Her story was published and this triggered the Alexis Jay report, which exposed 1,400 children being abused and failed in Rotherham.

A police investigation, Operation Clover & Operation Stovewood was also launched into all non-recent child abuse cases in South Yorkshire, becoming the biggest investigation in the UK.

The investigations which followed exposed Rotherham grooming gangs who committed serious child sexual exploitation crimes over an extensive period which spanned from approximately 1987 until 2003.

In February 2016, Sammy’s abuser Arshid Hussain was found guilty and sentenced to 35 years in prison alongside 5 others, for a total of 102 years. There were four trials in total under Operation Clover & Thunder, 21 survivors, 20 criminals and a total sentencing of 290 years 6 months.

When Sammy was 15, the police raided the property of now-convicted serial rapist Hussain. Sammy was half-naked and hiding under his bed. Hussain was not detained, but Sammy was arrested and charged. Sammy had been coerced into committing assault and possessing an offensive weapon, by the notorious gang leader.

Just like Sammy and others like her, those convictions are still required to be disclosed to any prospective employer. For anyone in this position it means, that to explain such convictions and criminal records they will need to disclose their abuse.

The aim of implementing Sammy’s Law would be to ensure children are not charged for committing crimes whilst being groomed or coerced. Further, the Government must consider putting something in place for children that have already gained a criminal record due to being abused, as this is preventing them from moving forward.

John Boutcher, the Former Police Chief Constable supported Sammy’s campaign to stop victims of abuse being criminalised. He said “It cannot be right that victims are fearful of coming forward to the police or other organisations because to do so they are potentially placing themselves in jeopardy of prosecution. We must provide reassurances to those victims that are placed into a world of crime by their torturers and provide victims with an exit from their abuse. This pathway out of abuse should avoid victims being criminalised where they support a prosecution against their abusers, by so doing it is far more likely that we will put their tormentors where they belong, behind bars. Abusers will deliberately manipulate their victims into crime so that they can then further control them through both a fear of the criminal justice system as well as the more traditional methods of violence and intimidation to subdue resistance to their will".

MP Louise Haige also supports the implementation of Sammy’s Law. She said Judges in the High Court have already ruled that forcing victims of CSE to disclose past convictions linked to CSE is unjust. They argued that, any link between the past offending and the assessment of present risk in a particular employment, is either non-existent or at best extremely tenuous. I’m calling on the Government to bring forward what is known as Sammy’s law, which would give CSE victims the right to have their criminal records automatically reviewed, and crimes associated with their grooming removed. At present, anyone has the right to apply to the chief constable of their force area to have their records reviewed, but it is little known. Sammy and victims like her, have been repeatedly failed by the state. They were failed by our legal system, by the police, by the Crown Prosecution Service, by local authorities and by Government at every level. The Government must now ensure that the state no longer fails CSE survivors. Sammy’s law would help to achieve that.

You can find out more about the campaign Sammy’s Law here. The website also provides guidance for any parent who has concerns their child may be being groomed.

If you are concerned about abuse you may be suffering or wish to discuss this and are under 18 your can contact Childline on 0800 1111.

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. You can contact Alan Collins at Alan.collins@hughjames.com or Danielle Vincent at Danielle.vincent@hughjames.com.

Over the years, again and again allegations of physical, emotional and sexual abuse have surfaced from individuals who have spent time in institutional care. This can include many forms of institution including but not restricted to; schools, care homes, hospitals, religious organisations and detention centres.

In 2017, an investigation was commenced into the allegations of beatings, mistreatment and sexual abuse, including rape suffered at the Hill End Hospital Adolescent Unit in St Albans between 1969 and 1995 by former staff members. Over 100 victims provided evidence to the investigation and over 70 members of staff were investigated.

Hill End was supposed to treat teenagers with psychiatric illnesses but became known as a “dumping ground” for children for whom the NHS and local authorities had run out of other ideas for.

Survivors told how they were sexually abused and filmed during strip searches, while children were also beaten. Survivors accounts disclosed being kept in police type cells and sedated for days at a time without reason or justification. As well as the sedation and physical abuse that accompanied it, survivors have reported being raped and sexually abused by hospital staff while being sedated or during strip searches under the pretence of checking for items they could harm themselves with.

Survivors said that few children had been diagnosed with mental health issues, and cast doubt on the effectiveness of treatment. Survivors found medication did not appear on any records given to their GPs and the hospital’s own documents were destroyed in an arson attack at an undisclosed off-site facility.

In November 2020 following a three year investigation known as Operation Meadow, Hertfordshire Constabulary confirmed there was “insufficient evidence to support any arrest or prosecution”. Hertfordshire Constabulary said its investigation established that sedation at Hill End “did not meet the standards of the day and medical records show that in some cases children were given adult doses and were repeatedly sedated”.

A statement added: “As well as the use of sedation, officers have also investigated allegations of sexual assault at Hill End. These have all been fully investigated; however, again there is insufficient evidence to support any arrest or prosecution”.

The report can be found here.

One survivor accused police of failing to follow up a report he attempted to make 12 years ago. Survivors have vowed however to continue their fight for justice and proceed with civil claims which have a lower burden of proof than a criminal trial.

The ongoing Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse is continuing to take evidence on “the extent to which institutions have failed to protect children from sexual abuse” in councils, the police, armed forces, schools, hospitals, children’s homes, charities, religious groups and other public services.

The Truth Project offers victims and survivors of child sexual abuse the chance to share their experiences and be heard with respect. You can find information about this here.

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. You can contact Alan Collins at Alan.collins@hughjames.com or Danielle Vincent at Danielle.vincent@hughjames.com.

This summer the BBC released the drama ‘I May Destroy You’ exploring sexual assault and consent issues. It plays out issues rarely discussed in mainstream media.

Early into the drama, the main character, Arabella is drugged and sexually assaulted. The series follows her journey of flashbacks, piecing together her memories of what has happened to her. The series also focuses on her coping mechanisms and shows her struggle to accept she was a victim.

Throughout the drama stereotypical comments are used such as “you should watch your drink, you wouldn’t be raped”. It is both frustrating and upsetting for victims, but the drama shows the impact this thoughtless comment has on the character and hopefully will raise awareness that a victim is not to blame. However, as a warning for any future watchers of the drama, it may be triggering for anyone who has suffered similar incidents.

Further into the series, a male character has consensual protected sex with a man after meeting on Grindr, a dating app. He is then raped by the same person without a condom when he tries to leave. The scenes highlights the particular risk that dating apps pose. The character reports the crime to the police but sadly he is not taken seriously, he is questioned how someone can be raped if they have consented previously to the same sexual act. It is estimated that 70,000 men are raped every year in the UK so these scenes help to raise awareness of the risks to both men and women.

The series also raises awareness of Stealthing, the term that describes when a man deliberately removes a condom during sex despite agreeing to wear one without consent of the other party. A study published by Alexandra Brodsky at the Yale School of Law brought Stealthing into the press in 2017

The series watches Arabella consent to sexual intercourse with a condom but this is removed without her knowledge during the act. She is then told by the partner “I thought you knew, I thought you would feel it” which is deemed typical gaslighting behaviour in such situation. Arabella struggles with feelings of confusion and violation after she discovers this has happened. It is only further on into the series she finds out this is a popular occurrence and invalidates the consent for the sexual act she gave.

Websites have been set up to advise men on how to remove a condom without knowledge or consent, almost like a challenge.

Not only is there the concern of consent but also sexual transmitted disease and unwanted pregnancies.

Victims' charities say stealthing must be treated as rape and that it's a hugely under-reported problem.

Law

Under Scottish Law there is no specific reference to “stealthing” or condom removal as a criminal offence, but it is legally recognised as a serious sexual offence in England and Wales under the term “conditional consent”.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 (SOA 2003) outlines the sexual offences which are illegal under the laws of England and Wales. These include: rape (s 1); assault by penetration (s 2); sexual assault (s 3); causing a person to engage in sexual activity without consent (s 4).

Section 74 defines consent as 'if he agrees by choice, and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice'. This is two staged:

  • capacity to make a choice about whether or not to take part in the sexual activity at the time in question.
  • whether he or she was in a position to make that choice freely, and was not constrained in any way.

Section 74 and conditional consent has been considered by the High Court and the Court of Appeal in a series of cases where ostensible consent in relation to sexual offences was considered not to be true consent, either because a condition upon which consent was given was not complied with or because of a material deception (other than one which falls within section 76 of the Sexual Offences Act 2003 [SOA]).

In Julian Assange v Swedish Prosecution Authority [2011] EWHC 2849 (Admin), an extradition case, the President of the Queens Bench Division considered the situation in which Mr Assange knew that AA would only consent to sexual intercourse if he used a condom. Rejecting the view that the conclusive presumption in section 76 of the SOA would apply in these circumstances the President concluded that the "issue of materiality ...can be determined under section 74 rather than section 76".

On the specific facts the President said:

"It would plainly be open to a jury to hold that if AA had made clear that she would only consent to sexual intercourse if Mr Assange used a condom, then there would be no consent if, without her consent, he did not use a condom, or removed or tore the condom ..... His conduct in having sexual intercourse without a condom in circumstances where she had made clear she would only have sexual intercourse if he used a condom would therefore amount to an offence under the Sexual Offences Act 2003...."

Currently, when someone consents to have intercourse with a condom and the condom is removed without their permission this consent disappears.

A report by the End Violence Against Women (EVAW) published in December 2018, found that 40 per cent of people incorrectly believe that removing a condom without a partner’s consent is never or not usually sexual assault. https://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/

Katie Russell, spokesperson for Rape Crisis, explains: “You may consent to sex with a condom but not without one. You have provided your consent on a condition, and if someone breaks that condition they are breaking the law.” https://www.vogue.co.uk/arts-and-lifestyle/article/what-is-stealthing

There have been few cases that have dealt with the issue of stealthing to date. Of those reported, in 2017 a man was charged in Switzerland with rape which was a landmark case. A policeman was subsequently found guilty of sexual assault in Germany for the same crime. 

In 2019, a man from Bournemouth was sentenced to 12 years in prison after raping a women in a hotel room when he chose to remove the condom being used during sex. The female, a sex worker, had provided conditions of intercourse to where a condom which were agreed beforehand and advertised on her website.

Support for anyone who thinks they may have been affected by anything in this blog can be found here https://www.thesurvivorstrust.org/news/i-may-destroy-you.

 

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. You can contact Alan Collins at Alan.collins@hughjames.com or Danielle Vincent at Danielle.vincent@hughjames.com.

Zara McDermott star of Love Island and Made in Chelsea has recently confirmed that she is working closely with Refuge Charity  to raise awareness of the Naked Threat Campaign which is calling for the Government to make threatening to share intimate images a crime. https://www.refuge.org.uk/refuge-launches-the-naked-threat-campaign/

Zara herself experienced image based abuse during her time filming Love Island when intimate images of her were shared online without her permission. She has since used her social media platform to disclose the devastating impact this act of revenge porn had on her and to voice the need for change. Zara will also feature in an upcoming BBC documentary to discuss her experience of revenge porn.

The Naked Threat Campaign is backed by the Victims Commissioner and the Domestic Abuse Commissioner to urge the Government to use the Domestic Abuse Bill to make a simple legal change that would make a huge difference to the everyday lives.

With ever changing technology, images can be uploaded and shared within seconds. Media platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and Whatsapp are most popular in such quests with the ability to share images with millions of users in seconds. Disturbingly, these images are sometimes sent to the victim’s children, parents or employer and frequently also posted on pornographic sites which are then difficult to remove. We have seen many instances over the years in the media where celebrities’ phones have been hacked and storylines of such revenge porn have played out in British soap Coronation Street, dramas and films.

At this time, only the physical sharing of such images or films without consent in order to cause distress is a crime.  This is described as “the sharing of private, sexual materials, either photos or videos, of another person without their consent and with the purpose of causing embarrassment or distress”.  The offence covers images or videos showing people engaged in sexual activity which would not usually be done in public or with their genitals, buttocks or breasts exposed or covered only with underwear.  It is an offence to share the material as well as posting it online.  In England and Wales, the maximum punishment is two years in prison, but in Scotland, it is five years

 

 

The Naked Threat Campaign seeks to change the law so that threatening to share intimate images is made a crime by extending Section 33 of the Criminal Justice and Courts Act 2015 to criminalise threats to share sexual images or films in England and Wales without consent with the intent to cause distress.

The hope is by explicitly outlawing threats to share sexual images or films, this  will send the clear message to the abusers.

A survey commissioned by Refuge found that 1 in 14 adults in England and Wales have experienced threats to share intimate images or videos, this is equivalent to 4.4 million.

Those impacted by threats to share images, include controlling partners and ex-partners, leaving some victims afraid to leave abusive relationships. 72% of women who have received threats to share were threatened by a current or ex-partner and 83% of women who experienced the threat from a current or former partner also experienced other forms of abuse. This confirms Refuge’s assertion that threatening to share intimate images must be treated as a domestic abuse issue. 

Threats to share intimate images are most prevalent amongst young people (aged 18-34), with 1 in 7 young women experiencing such threats.

Such threats have significant impact on mental health and social wellbeing and will act as a way of control. Of those impacted, 1 in 7 confirmed they felt risk of physical abuse and 1 in 10 felt suicidal.https://www.refuge.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/The-Naked-Threat-Report.pdf

If you would like further information you can go to:

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. You can contact Alan Collins at Alan.collins@hughjames.com or Danielle Vincent at Danielle.vincent@hughjames.com

Load more

Play this podcast on Podbean App