October 23, 2020

Safeguarding In UK Wrestling

In recent years the popularity of UK Wresting has soared. With shows every weekend around the country drawing in big crowds of both young and old, the activity which is a mixture of both acting and sport is now highly popular in the UK just as it is in America and Japan.

NXT UK is a professional wrestling television programme produced by WWE (World Wrestling Entertainment) arguably the biggest entertainment giants for wrestling.  The show airs in the United Kingdom on BT Sport, Channel 5 and Paramount Network making overnight successes of some of the show’s stars.

Films like Fighting With My Family based on the true-life success story of Saraya-Jade Bevis (Paige) who was signed to WWE and was the youngest ever Diva Champion at the age of 21 have been hugely successful.

In recent months, however, wrestling has repeatedly hit the headlines for the wrong reasons; abuse by leading wrestlers and secondly safeguarding issues.

Wrestlers, promoters, and other people in the industry were accused of sexual misconduct, with people using the hashtag #SpeakingOut as they shared their stories on social media. A wave of suspensions and sackings followed in the UK and the US, including big names from WWE.

BBC journalist Jonathan Savage reported that West Yorkshire Police were "carrying out initial enquiries" into allegations of a number of cases of abuse reported by female wrestlers.

Following this, many big names in the wrestling world from different organisations such as WWE and Elite Wrestling, both victims and the accused have been disclosed in recent publications

Kelly Klein a professional female American wrestler wrote on Twitter: “I was raped by a now well-known wrestler when I was 18. I didn’t feel like I had support or sufficient proof. I believed my career would be over before it started."

Impact Wrestling released Joey Ryan, Dave Crist and Michael Elgin following multiple sexual misconduct allegations shared on social media

WWE recently released Former British champion Gentleman Jack Gallagher over allegations of menacing advances at a New Years Eve party in 2014.

The former cruiserweight wrote, "In 2014, at a New Year's Eve party, I met a young woman and my behaviour towards her was inappropriate. As this party was nearly six years ago and I had drunk quite a large amount of alcohol that night, unfortunately, I do not recollect what happened. I wish to make it clear that drinking is not an excuse for my behaviour that night. I want to express my deepest regrets, and I am genuinely sorry for the upset that I have caused." He continued. "This isolated incident is not reflective of my behaviour and attitude towards women. As a man, I know I can do better, and with the support of my wife, I have taken the time over the last few months to understand what I can do. But this is not about me, but about the women that come forward as part of the #SpeakingOut movement. I will continue to support women and this movement to the best of my ability." 

WWE released a statement on the allegations against the performers in the wrestling company. It said: "Individuals are responsible for their own personal actions. WWE has zero-tolerance for matters involving domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault. Upon arrest for such misconduct, a WWE talent will be immediately suspended. Upon conviction for such misconduct, a WWE talent will be immediately terminated." 

UK wrestling star Matt Riddle is alleged to have abused Candy Cartwright, also a wrestler, in 2018, who claimed on Twitter that Riddle forced her to give him oral sex after choking her.

Another UK wrestling star Jordan Devlin (WWE NXT UK Superstar) has also been named after allegations were made by Hannah Francesca.  Francesca posted a series of tweets in which she alleged she was physically abused by someone in the industry and when she went to the promotion, she was told “One of my boys wouldn’t do that.” She included photos of her bruised body.

WWE executives are reportedly getting together to discuss the influx of abuse allegations levied against NXT UK talent. Tom Colohue reports that WWE officials have called an emergency meeting to discuss the allegations against stars from the brand who have been accused of sexual, physical or mental/verbal abuse: https://411mania.com/wrestling/sexual-misconduct-allegations-el-ligero-mikey-whiplash-uk-wrestlers/

Labour MP Alex Davies-Jones raised the Speaking Out movement in Parliament during a debate on misogyny in sport and stated "The disturbing reality and lived experience for many female wrestlers is, more often than not, entrenched in misogyny," she said.

"I have heard horrific tales from female wrestlers who were faced with threats of rape or sexual assault, all in the name of 'friendly banter', "I have also heard from women as young as 13 or 14 who, at the start of their careers, were the targets of vile behaviours that saw male wrestlers competing to be the one to take their virginity." Davies-Jones said the #SpeakingOut movement had left the wrestling industry "tainted with its harrowing stories of emotional and sexual abuse" and questioned what was being done when there was "no governing body to hold to account" and "Who should these young women turn to?" the MP asked, telling BBC Sport: "Wrestling has fallen through the gaps because it's not necessarily a sport."

In September 2020 it was announced a group of cross-party MPs will launch the first ever inquiry into British Professional wrestling to consider how best to promote, support and improve the wrestling industry in Britain. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Wrestling, co-chaired by Davies-Jones and Mark Fletcher MP will start taking evidence, written and oral, to inform a report due to be released in early 2021. Other MPs involved in the inquiry include Tonia Antoniazzi MP, Paul Bristow MP, Ruth Jones MP and Connor McGinn. Guidance on how to provide evidence to the inquiry can be found here.

NXT UK’s Pete Dunne has posted about the situation, noting that he is “disgusted by what I’m reading. Well done to those speaking out. I really hope we can make British wrestling a better place and keep everyone safe. This is a huge eye opener and let’s hope it will force a big change.”

Coach Relationships And Minors

Another reg flag that came from the exposure in wrestling was relationships formed with younger athletes. As with recent exposures in the sport industry, with regard to British Gymnastics, Ballet and Swimming, coaching falls within a problematic loophole. It is illegal for teachers, care workers, doctors and youth justice workers to have sexual intercourse with 16 or 17-year-olds in their care. However due to a loophole, adults who hold a position of power over a young person such as coaches can legally have sex with someone of the age of 16 even in a position of trust such as this.

Such position of trust formed with a coach prevents many young people speaking out for fear this will not only damage their career but that they may not be believed. It provides a dangerous shift in the balance of power. Coaches may have worked with individuals for years having formed close bonds not only with the trainee themselves but also family and friends of the individual.

The NSPCC have been campaigning to change the law to be extended to include any adult who holds a position of power over 16 or 17-year-olds for many years. https://www.nspcc.org.uk/support-us/campaigns/close-the-loophole/ #CloseTheLoophole

Wrestler Banks, whose real name is Travis Bligh, has been accused of emotional and psychological abuse during a relationship with a 17-year-old trainee, Millie McKenzie. Millie accused the then 30 year old coach Banks of being emotionally manipulative of her during a “secret one year relationship” when she was training under him. Banks, who was also released by the WWE's NXT UK promotion, gave BBC Sport a statement in response, saying: "I apologise again for the pain that was caused. This was an entirely consensual relationship but I recognise that what happened should not have happened. "I support the efforts being made by the Speaking Out movement to enable everyone in wrestling, and other sports also, to feel safe and never have to face a similar situation."

Lucia Lee, 18, was another wrestler who came forward. In June 2020 she claimed young women were "slut shamed" and referred to as "ring rats", accused by male colleagues of having "slept their way on to shows". Speaking to BBC Sport, Lee said: "After my first match - I was 16 - there was a 30-something-year-old man backstage. Everyone congratulated me and he just sort of gave me a massive hug and whispered into my ear, 'your arse looked amazing during that match'. "If you speak up against someone that's on big shows, they can start going around to each individual promotion and saying 'don't book her, she's a troublemaker; don't book her she's a ring rat'."

Many of the alleged victims blamed a 'locker room' culture in wrestling that allowed misconduct to happen with a lack of rules no one to check on you.

Again due to the loophole, this will be another sport/activity which will allow young people to remain vulnerable.

What happens next?

It will be of interest to see in the coming months, what safeguarding measures are proposed to protect individuals going forward.

In addition to the Biritsh Inqury, Equity, a trade union for entertainers, has suggested five pledges to regulate British wrestling, including safeguarding and 'dignity at work' policies, separate dressing rooms at shows and agreed transport and accommodation arrangements.

Progress Wrestling told BBC Sport: "We've all got to be great for this industry to work and to prevent another Speaking Out movement happening. Because if we're on the same level, we're on the same page, it's going to be safer for everyone."

Revolution Pro Wrestling CEO Andy Quildan said it wants "an independent body and we want to be held accountable".

British Wrestling have confirmed they are working closely with the NSPCC. The link to this is here.

We encourage anyone who has concerns about sexual abuse to get in touch. You can contact us by emailing aboutabuse@hjtalks.co.uk

In this episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast, Alan Collins and Danielle Vincent explore the Church of England’s proposed compensation scheme for victims of abuse.

An interim pilot scheme has been drawn up to initially compensate 10 survivors. A statement read ‘The pilot scheme is designed to enable the Church to respond in particular to those survivors’ cases which are already known to the Church, where the survivor is known to be in seriously distressed circumstances, and the Church has a heightened responsibility because of the way the survivor was responded to following disclosure”.

Compensation funds have now been approved by the Church’s Cabinet, the Archbishops Council.  Initial estimates suggest compensation will amount to potentially £200 million.

The scheme will look to compensate these 10 individuals as a ‘pilot’ before finalising the full Redress Scheme which will then be opened up to the masses. At this time, it is unclear what the time scale will be for this.

The Church of England compensation scheme follows the ongoing investigation and criticism by the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA). The IICSA has held several hearings into abuse in the Church of England and the Catholic Church The finalised report is still awaited, such hearing being delayed by the current covid pandemic. The inquiry’s report is expected to heavily criticise the Church of England for its failure to act on disclosures of abuse and to treat survivors with compassion by protecting clergy at the expense of children and vulnerable adults

The Most Reverend Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury and leader of the Church of England, and Vincent Nichols, the archbishop of Westminster and most senior Catholic cleric in England and Wales, have previously both given evidence in person to the IISCA, apologising for abuse and its cover-up. The Archbishop of Canterbury told it that he was ashamed of the church and abusers should go to prison. ‘These decisions feel like a turning point. We continue to pray for survivors and all those the Church has failed

A separate 2017 investigation by the IICSA into abuse by former bishop Peter Ball found the church failed to protect boys and then concealed evidence of Ball’s crime and prioritised its own reputation above the needs of victims. Ball was jailed for 32 months in 2015 for sexual abuse against boys carried out over three decades.  Ball was allowed to remain in the Church after accepting a reprimand for his behaviour in 1993.

The redress scheme has been publicised as the turning point in the Church’s treatment of survivors abused by bishops, clergy, churchwardens, employees, volunteers, congregation members and people with church connections. The Archbishops’ Council also committed the Church of England to greater independence and transparency in the way it deals with abuse. The scheme has been a long time coming for many victims whose complaints were never investigated or dismissed.

Reporting of both current and historical abuse in the dioceses have risen experientially based on the initial data disclosed in the last few years. In 2017 there were 3,287 complaints, compared with 2,195 in 2015. It is understood the increase is from vulnerable category victims.

It is predicted thousands of individuals will come forward to apply to the scheme who may not have already disclosed their experiences The criteria an applicant will be required to meet to be eligible to apply to the scheme and the finer details of the compensation awards tariff available has yet to be disclosed at this time. It is thought the scheme with cover sexual abuse, physical and psychological abuse.

The history behind the scheme is outlined by the Church’s lead bishop for safeguarding, the Rt. Rev’d Jonathan Gibbs in a BBC interview on 4th October 2o20: bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000n4vy

The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) runs The Truth Project offering victims and survivors of child sexual abuse the chance to share their experiences and be heard with respect. 5000 people have spoken out. The link to this is here  https://www.truthproject.org.uk/help-and-support#233150507

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

The Historical Institutional Abuse Inquiry investigated abuse of children under the age of 18 who were living in institutions in Northern Ireland between 1922 and 1995. The investigation reviewed 22 institutions but noted there were further organisations identified. The report was published on 20 January 2017. The Inquiry found that abuse was ‘widespread’ within various institutions.

The link to the findings of the report can be found here.

An institution was deemed any body, society or organisation with responsibility for the care, health or welfare of children in Northern Ireland, other than a school which, during the relevant period, provided residential accommodation and took decisions about and made provision for the day to day care of children. This included organisations run by the state, churches and charities such as children’s homes, training schools, juvenile justice centres (borstals), and orphanages.

Some of the institutions named include:-

Local Authority Homes

  • Lissue Hospital, Lisburn
  • Kincora Boys’ Home, Belfast
  • Bawnmore Children’s Home, Newtownabbey
  • Fort James and Harberton House, Londonderry

Juvenile Justice Institutions

  • St Patrick’s Training School, Belfast
  • Lisnevin Training School, County Down
  • Rathgael Training School, Bangor
  • Hydebank Young Offenders’ Centre
  • Millisle Borstal

Secular Voluntary Homes

  • Barnardo’s Sharonmore Project, Newtownabbey
  • Barnardo’s Macedon, Newtownabbey

Roman Catholic Voluntary Homes

  • St Joseph’s Home, Termonbacca, Londonderry
  • Nazareth House Children’s Home, Londonderry
  • Nazareth House Children’s Home, Belfast
  • Nazareth Lodge Children’s Home, Belfast
  • De La Salle Boys’ Home, Rubane House, Kircubbin
  • St Joseph’s Training School for Girls, Middletown, Co Armagh
  • Institutions run by Good Shepherd Sisters in Derry/Londonderry, Belfast and Newry

Church of Ireland

  • Manor House, a children’s home near Lisburn (added November 2015)

In November 2019, almost three years after the release of the report findings, The Historical Institutional Abuse (Northern Ireland) Act 2019 received Royal Assent. The Act provides the legal framework for the establishment of the Historical Institutional Abuse Redress Board.

The scheme has been set up following the findings of the report, to compensate those who experienced abuse in residential institutions in Northern Ireland between the years 1922 and 1995. The scheme goes further to offer an additional compensation sum if the applicant was sent to Australia under the Child Migrant Programme.

It is estimated there will be thousands of individuals who are applicable to apply to the scheme. The scheme became live in March 2020 and is now welcoming applications. The scheme application deadline is March 2025.

An application can be made on behalf of someone who died on, or after, 28 April 1953 if they are the deceased persons:

  • surviving spouse;
  • civil partner;
  • cohabiting partner;
  • surviving child.

The compensation award payment starts at £10,000 if the applicant was a resident in one of the institutions. The Redress Board will obtain a copy of the applicant’s evidence from the Public Records Office Northern Ireland (PRONI) on their behalf to confirm they were a resident.

An enhanced award payment of between £10,001 and £80,000 will be made based on the applicant’s statement provided, including the nature and extent of the abuse that that person was subjected to and the ongoing impact to the applicant’s life.

A further amount of £20,000 will be awarded if the application is made by or in respect of a person who was sent to Australia under the Child Migrant Programme if the applicant has not already been awarded compensation under the Government scheme established in the wake of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA).

If an applicant provided evidence to the Hart Inquiry they are not required to provide any further evidence in the form of a witness statement unless such individual wishes to do so.

The scheme will also provide assistance to people with queries about:

  • benefits and housing
  • debt and personal finance
  • education and further education, jobs and training
  • searching for personal records
  • help to report abuse incidents to the Police Service of Northern Ireland

Applications will be considered by paper determination by a three-person panel consisting of a judicial member and two non-judicial members from a health and social care background. The judicial member will chair the panel.

An offer of settlement would, in theory, be made within 21 days. If the applicant does not want to accept the award amount, they have the right to appeal the determination. A single judicial member will determine the appeal. The judicial member can uphold the original decision, reverse the decision, or increase or reduce the award of the panel. A decision on the appeal is final.

We encourage anyone who wishes to discuss the scheme or has concerns about sexual abuse to visit the sexual abuse page on the Hugh James website. We can advise and assist you with an application to the Northern Ireland Redress Scheme at no cost to you. 

If you would like to suggest a topic for a future episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast, you can email aboutabuse@hjtalks.co.uk.

In this episode of HJ Talks About Abuse, Alan Collins and Feleena Grosvenor pay tribute to Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg was a US Supreme Court Justice and she died on the 18th of September 2020, aged 87.

She was only the second women ever to serve as a justice at the US Supreme Court, a well-known advocate for gender equality and an outspoken advocate of LGBTQ rights.

She was nominated to the Supreme Court in 1993 by President Bill Clinton and has heard a number of landmark cases.

One of the most significant cases Justice Ginsburg heard was Obergefell v Hodges. This was a case heard at the Supreme Court on 26 June 2015 and it related to two main questions; firstly whether states were required to license marriages between same-sex individuals and secondly if they were required to recognise same-sex marriages licensed out-of-state.

Justice Ginsburg sided with the majority which asserted that the right to marry is a fundamental right “inherent in the liberty of the person” and is therefore protected by the due process clause, which prohibits the states from depriving any person of “life, liberty, or property without due process of law.” Ultimately, the close connection between liberty and equality meant that the states could not deny any person the equal protection of the laws.

The 5-4 majority, including Justice Ginsburg, legalised same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

It is an unfortunate reality that over history, and even in the present day, that those who have a sexual orientation other than heterosexual can be targeted and abused and/or discriminated against for this reason. This case and the comments made of the Supreme Court were monumental and one of the many occasions where Justice Ginsburg showed her support for the LGBTQ community.

Another significant case, and one of the most controversial that Justice Ginsburg heard, was Whole Woman’s Health v Hellerstedt. This case was heard in 2016 and related to Texas’ Omnibus Abortion Bill (known widely as H.B.2) which imposed strict restrictions and requirements on abortion providers. The bill was argued to have the purpose of making the clinics harder to run in an affordable and accessible way.

The justices struck down the bill by a majority of 5-3 because H.B.2 had forced abortion care facilities to close which resulted in fewer available facilities which then resulted in women facing undue burdens such as travel time and cost when seeking abortions. This restriction of access to abortion care was found to be unconstitutional.

Justice Ginsburg was a part of the majority and although she did not write the official majority option, she made clear her views on the subject should it be raised in future. She made a powerful statement as follows:

“it is beyond rational belief that H.B.2 could genuinely protect the health of woman and certain that the law would simply make it more difficult for them to obtain abortions… When a State severely limits access to safe and legal procedures, women in desperate circumstances may resort to unlicensed rogue practitioners… at a great risk to their health and safety…. Laws like H.B.2 that do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion, cannot survive judicial inspection.”

The HJ Talks About Abuse podcast is produced by the Sexual Abuse Team at Hugh James. If you have any questions about this episode of the podcast or would like to suggest a topic for a future episode, please email aboutabuse@hjtalks.co.uk 

The existence of child soldiers has not been reported on much of late, but has been raised by the US State Department in its 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report, and by the UN in its report on human rights violations in Yemen (the UN report”).[1]

The use of children as soldiers is commonplace. The UN in 2016 reported that: An upsurge in global conflicts and brutal war tactics continues to make children extremely vulnerable to recruitment and use by armed groups to work as porters, messengers, and cooks, and also in armed conflict as combatants and in sexual slavery, causing the children lifelong trauma.

The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court classifies the recruitment of children into fighting forces as a war crime and a crime against humanity. The International Labour Organization’s Convention No. 182 defines child soldiering as one of the worst forms of child labour. The African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child outlaws child soldiering, and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child established 18 as the minimum age for children’s participation in hostilities.

In the UK You must be at least 16 years old to join the Army as a soldier. You can start your application when you're 15 years and 7 months.

In Australia, you can join the Army at 17 but can start your application earlier if you wish.

As mentioned in the UK sixteen-year-olds are allowed to join the Army, but under the terms of the UN Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict, known as the ‘child soldiers treaty’, the UK does not send under-18s to warzones although there have been incidences where it has happened.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child defines a child as being every human being below the age of 18 years. This, arguably, begs the question is the west in some cases sending mixed messages by recruiting 16 and 17 year olds to their armed forces?

The argument is that the armed forces offer young people exemplary career opportunities and that may be so in the UK and Australia. The reality in the likes of Somalia is very different.

In those parts of the world where the UN conventions and protocols are not so readily respected, children can be illegally abducted and forced to join up. Or, it may be that due to the impact of conflict on their communities, children join 'voluntarily' (often under pressure from family or members of the group) in order to secure food, to escape an abusive relationship, for revenge if many of their family members have been killed or for safety and money.

As well as live combat, the role of a child soldier can include working as a spy, planting landmines, performing domestic duties and delivering messages. Child soldiers are highly vulnerable to abuse with reports of sexual exploitation, and being used as human shields on the front line of fighting. If they manage to escape, former child soldiers often live in fear of retaliation against themselves or their families.

Turning to the UN report, it calls on the Security Council to refer alleged actions by all parties in the conflict, including the Houthis rebels and Saudi Arabia, to the International Criminal Court for possible war crimes prosecutions.

The UN report also urges the Security Council to expand sanctions against individuals involved in the conflict and to establish a criminal investigations body.

The UN report authors said there were “reasonable grounds” to believe that the Yemeni government and the Iran-backed Houthis, along with the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, were responsible for a range of rights violations, including unlawful deaths, disappearances and imprisonment, along with sexual violence and the use of child soldiers.[2]

If the UK and Australia for argument’s sake lifted the minimum age for joining the armed forces to 18 it would unlikely make any difference to the plight of child soldiers in countries where conventions and protocols are not respected.

The UN report calls for:

[the parties to the conflict to] Cease and prevent the recruitment and use of children in the armed conflict; further, ensure the demobilization and effective disarmament of boys and girls recruited or used in hostilities, and the release of those captured; implement effective programmes for their rehabilitation, physical and psychological recovery, and reintegration into society.

All decent and same people would agree with that call, but is it worth the paper it is written on?

The tragic reality is that the child soldiers have rights written on paper but no means to enforce them. The UN report recognises that “No right exists without a remedy” yet calls on the warring parties who recruit child soldiers and exploit them in the worst possible way to do the decent thing.

The challenge for the UN and the international community is to enable the child soldiers to have the means of access to the remedy. There can be no means of access to justice if the child is dependent on the warring parties viz his/her abuser.

In relation to Yemen, the UN report calls for “the creation of a special tribunal such as a “hybrid tribunal” to prosecute cases of those most responsible” for the various atrocities. That may be right and proper but how does that look from a child soldier’s perspective?

Maybe, the UN and the international community when asking itself what should be done when children’s rights are abused should ask children? If they do, maybe, answers and solutions will be found that do provide a remedy…

If you would like to learn more about sexual abuse claims, be sure to visit the sexual abuse page on hughjames.com. 


[1] Situation of human rights in Yemen, including violations and abuses since September 2014 https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/HRBodies/HRCouncil/GEE-Yemen/2020-09-09-report.pdf

[2] “Whether and how a Yemeni boy or girl was recruited depended on which

party to the conflict controlled a child’s home territory and on his/her age, gender and

economic status. Across all verified cases, poverty and hunger were powerful push factors,

rendering children vulnerable to monetary incentives and manipulation by recruiters and


In a recent podcast, following the publication by the US State Department 2020 Trafficking in Persons Report,   we discussed “trauma bonding” in the context of human trafficking.

It is recognised that victims can become physical and psychological dependence on their captors hence out of the trauma of being enslaved a relationship develops. It may seem perverse but on analysis, we can understand why this happens if the victim is dependent on the trafficker or slave master for food, shelter, or physical safety if not survival.

In this podcast, Alan and Michael explore “trauma bonding” in other contexts such as the abusive relationship.

“Trauma bonding” is thought to occur in relationships when there are periods of intense love and excitement with a person followed by periods of abuse, neglect, and mistreatment if not sexual and physical violence. The cycle of being devalued and then rewarded over and over works over time to create a strong chemical and hormonal bond between a victim and his or her abuser. This is why victims of abuse often describe feeling more deeply bonded to their abuser than they do to people who actually consistently treat them well.

We use the term relationship in its broadest sense because the reality may be that it is a misnomer. You could have for example a situation where criminal offences are being committed, say, in the case of a so-called relationship between a teacher and pupil. The pupil may well see what is taken place with the teacher as a “relationship” be blind to the grooming (and exploitation) that is occurring.

Is the acceptance of exploitation in a relationship a symptom or aspect of “trauma bonding”?

Michael makes the point that “trauma bonding” can be misunderstood as a kind of “Stockholm Syndrome” and explains why this is so

In attempting to answer the question Alan and Michael discuss research that suggests a significant minority of gay men experience violence in their relationships.

A study, published in the July 2018 issue of The American Journal of Men’s Health, indicates that gay male couples experience domestic violence at rates comparable to heterosexual couples.

Researchers gathered data about Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) from both members of male couples, rather than from just one member. 46 percent of couples surveyed said they had experienced IPV over the preceding year, whether as emotional, sexual or physical abuse or in some other form. The study also found that internalized homophobia is a common factor in abusive behaviour, both among perpetrators and victims.

A 2016 study in the US identified a cause of violence in a relationship as a homophobic stigma. This is in line with research elsewhere. It is of course extraordinary that in the western world in the 21st century that there are people embarrassed by their sexuality.

Research suggests abusive partners within an LGBTIQ relationship may use homo/bi/transphobia or heterosexism to exercise power and control over a partner. For example, the practice of "outing" or disclosing HIV status, or threats to do so may occur. An LGBTIQ partner may use their partner's sexuality or identity as a form of control by limiting their access to friends and social networks, or by threatening to tell their partner's employer, parent, children, landlord or friends about their same-sex relationship or trans identity.

Internalised homophobia can manifest within an abuser as "contempt for an intimate partner" An abusive partner may also use homophobia or transphobia to control and isolate a partner by suggesting that they will not be believed or that they shouldn't report the violence as they will be discriminated against by services and the law. Further to this, fear of isolation and homophobia in the wider community may contribute to victims staying with an abusive partner.

Other research suggests that there is an appreciation or expectation of emotional intimate partner violence to be commonplace.

Research has also shown that violence can be normalised and this begs the question if this is so, does this mean that there is an absence of “trauma bonding”?

If the normalisation blunts the distinction between aggressor and victim we can see how it might be difficult to answer the question affirmatively. Yet what appears to be a contradiction suggests that normalisation is, in fact, a symptom. The victim has “accepted” the violence to sustain what they see as the relationship. It’s arguably no different to the trafficking victim taking food and shelter from their captor day in day out in order to survive. A relationship of dependency exists through unacceptable behaviour.

To conclude and by answering the question “trauma bonding” generally is now understood in terms of attachment theory, and the ways in which abuse triggers intense fear and attachment that, perhaps, ironically can prompt the victim to seek the perpetrator’s protection.

A final thought is that labels and, maybe, “trauma bonding” is one, can conjure –up a meaningful diagnosis or an answer to a complex problem, but our discussion shows that they need to be used with care.

Following on from last week's episode of the HJ Talk About Abuse podcast, Alan Collins and Mike Dunn discuss the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and whether in reality, it means anything, especially within the context of the States of Jersey?

To quote from the UK Parliament’s Human Rights Joint Committee report of 2015:

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is the most universally accepted of all UN human rights instruments and the most comprehensive in its promotion of children's rights—civil, political, economic, social and cultural—informing other human rights standards through a framework of state responsibilities applicable to all children within signatory states' jurisdictions. 

Yet the joint committee notes that the Convention is not incorporated into UK law:

Moreover, while the Convention has not been incorporated into UK law and is therefore not directly justiciable in UK courts—that is to say, an individual cannot go to a UK court to complain about a breach of any of the rights in the Convention—the conclusions and recommendations of the UN Committee, while strictly speaking not legally binding, do provide an authoritative interpretation of the individual treaty obligations which are themselves legally binding on the UK.

The Committee had previously recommended that the Convention be incorporated into law, having also noted the inadequacies that presented due to this failure.  Sweden by contrast has incorporated the Convention and has recognised that doing this has been an aid to empowering children and young people.

Alan argues that the Convention be incorporated into UK law. It should be so incorporated to give backbone to the necessary measures that are needed to ensure that child protection is adequate for the 21st Century; that those invested with responsibility for child protection, be they individuals or bodies, are in effect answerable to both children and society more broadly, and as such must always be held accountable for failures to protect or for inaction. The way this accountability is expressed or defined, and subsequently enacted, should therefore never amount to tokenism.

If you would like to speak to Alan about The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and how it may apply to you, get in touch by emailing aboutabuse@hjtalks.co.uk. For more information about how Hugh James helps survivors of sexual abuse, you can visit Alan's page on our website here.

In this episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast, Partner Alan Collins discusses with Mike Dun – amateur historian and commentator on legal and political issues in Jersey and elsewhere the issue of human rights in 2020 with an 18th-century twist.

They discuss whether piracy and slave trading generated human right questions 300 years ago and whether society has learned any lessons from those times let alone found answers.

For more information about sexual abuse cases, visit Alan's page on the Hugh James website or you can email aboutabuse@hjtalks.co.uk. 

Slavery has been very much in the media recently. Few must have missed the images of social-disorder and the toppling of statues broadcast on social and mainstream media, and the very heated arguments this generated. In the ensuing debates, attempts were made to focus attention on modern slavery.

Slavery tragically is alive and flourishing in the 21st century. It is happening as we speak and under our noses.

It is estimated that 40 million people globally are victims of modern slavery or trafficking. Over 70% of these people are women and girls, many of whom are trapped in sexual exploitation.

The Trafficking in Persons report 2020

The US Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report is published annually and measures countries’ efforts to comply with the “minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking” based on a tier ranking system.

The United States considers “trafficking in persons,” “human trafficking,” and “modern slavery” to be interchangeable umbrella terms that refer to both sex and labour trafficking. It encompasses involuntary servitude, slavery or practices similar to slavery, debt bondage, and forced labour.

The US’s Trafficking Victims Protection Act (“TVPA”) defines “severe forms of trafficking in persons” as:

"sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or the recruitment, harbouring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for labour or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

A victim need not be physically transported from one location to another for the crime to fall within this definition."

Here is a snapshot from the 2020 report and this is of course just an example and it’s from Guinea:

"As reported over the past five years, human traffickers exploit domestic and foreign victims in Guinea, and traffickers exploit victims from Guinea abroad. Women and children are the most vulnerable to trafficking. Parents send girls to intermediaries who subject them to forced labour in domestic service and sex trafficking. Traffickers exploit boys in forced labour in begging, street vending, shoe shining, mining for gold and diamonds, in herding, fishing, and agriculture, including farming and on coffee, cashew, and cocoa plantations. Some government entities and NGOs allege forced labour within Guinea is most prevalent in the mining sector. Traffickers exploit men, women, and children in forced labour in agriculture. Reports indicate children are sent to the coastal region of Boke for forced labour on farms."

Readers and listeners may rightly conclude that this is modern-day slavery.

In future podcasts, we will explore other issues arising from modern day slavery but in this episode, we discuss “trauma bonding”.

Trauma Bonding

The 2020 report discusses the concept of trauma bonding  and we use the Guinea example to help us appreciate it on a human level.


In human trafficking cases, the relationship between victim and trafficker may involve trauma bonding, a phenomenon that is beginning to receive, according to the 2020 report,  increased attention. In research on the topic, trauma bonding is commonly referred to as “Stockholm Syndrome,” and the terms may be used interchangeably. “Stockholm Syndrome” is associated usually with kidnapping with the hostage forming a dependency like a relationship with their captors.  However, there is no medical standard for diagnosis of either, nor any agreed-upon definition of trauma bonding. In addition, there is no definitive understanding of trauma bonding’s prevalence within trafficking situations and not all trafficking victims experience it. Current research is mostly limited to the United States and focused almost exclusively on sex trafficking of women and girls. These research gaps, again, according to the report, create uncertainty regarding the prevalence and full impact of trauma bonding on all human trafficking victims globally.

In “conventional” child sexual abuse cases albeit there is not, of course, anything remotely conventional but the point is we can and do see an emotional bond, which has enabled the sexual abuse of children, has served to protect the offender long after the abuse has ceased.

Although definitions vary, the most common meaning of trauma bonding is when a trafficker uses rewards and punishments within cycles of abuse to foster a powerful emotional connection with the victim. We might think of this as or call it “grooming”.  Traffickers may take on a role as a protector (not unlike a kidnapper or child abuser who grooms his/her victim) to maintain control of the victim, create confusion, and develop a connection or attachment, which may include the victim feeling a sense of loyalty to or indeed love for the trafficker. This connection, or traumatic bond, becomes especially intense when fear of the trafficker is paired with gratitude for any kindness shown. Some argue that this is just natural adaptation but this does not sit easily with what we know about grooming in CSA.  Additionally, trauma bonding, including in cases of trafficking, may occur within familial relationships in which the perpetrator could even be a parent which as we know can in itself cause considerable psychological damage.

In our Guinea example, we can, perhaps, relate to the victims’ desire to be safe and to have food and shelter. For these basic needs, they will be dependent on their captors, that is, their supposed employers. That dependency creates a “relationship” akin to master and slave.

Psychological coercion may increase the likelihood of trauma bonding. When a victim perceives a threat to their physical and psychological survival at the hands of their trafficker, trauma bonding may occur. Traffickers may isolate and threaten victims, induce exhaustion, and interfere with their believed or real ability to escape. A victim may eventually feel helpless and respond to any form of “help” or “kindness” from their trafficker with gratitude and attachment in order to survive.

To quote from the 2020 report:

Describing the bonding that occurs in the face of danger, psychiatrist and trauma expert Bessel Van der Kolk explains, “Pain, fear, fatigue, and loss of loved ones and protectors all evoke efforts to attract increased care. When there is no access to…other sources of comfort, people may turn toward their tormentors.” Therefore, a victim’s social and economic circumstances may contribute to their developing a sense of trust and loyalty towards a trafficker. For example, lack of access to housing, healthcare, employment, income, education, or asylum may increase the likelihood of a trauma bond developing.

In this episode of the HJ Talks About Abuse podcast, host, Alan Collins talks about the prevalence of abuse within the aid sector. 

The UK Government's International Development Committee has announced that it is launching a re-examination into the progress that has been made to tackle sexual abuse and exploitation within the aid sector.

The examination's focus is on aid recipients who become victims and survivors of sexual abuse within the sector. The International Development Committee will look at such topics as the ability of victims to access justice and their ability to rebuild their lives as well as looking at the steps needed to change the culture within the aid sector so that abuse can be prevented in the first place.

The US State Department has also recently released a "Trafficking In Persons" report. Part of this report is about accountability for UN peacekeepers. The report highlights that countries send troops on peacekeeping missions but those peacekeepers often have no accountability back home for any wrongdoing done while on peacekeeping missions. 

When refugees are more concerned about their safety and survival, they do not have the resources to seek justice when they have been violated. 

If the International Development Committee wants to really tackle this issue, they need to speak to victims and not just those who are providing aid. 

In the example of UN peacekeepers or foreign aid workers, one thing that would go a long way to addressing the issue would be to remove jurisdictional boundaries so that a survivor can have their abuser prosecuted in any country around the world. For instance, if the survivor is in Country A and is abused by a peacekeeper from Country B while they are in Country A,  then the survivor should be able to have their abuser prosecuted in Country A, Country B or in any other country.

It is also unreasonable to expect that a refugee who is struggling to feed, clothe and house themselves would be able to obtain a form, fill it out and post it back in order to report their abuse. In order for refugees to be able to access justice, they need to be able to report abuse from within the refugee camp.


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