Abused as boy at Elm Guest House, but he had to obtain victim-support help himself
By David Hencke | 16 March 2013
Ministers are under pressure to find the resources for counselling and other support services for people who suffered sexual abuse as children.
It comes as two witnesses in ‘Operation Fernbridge’, Scotland Yard’s investigation into allegations of a paedophile ring in Richmond three decades ago, told Exaro of the devastating impact of reliving their experiences in interviews with detectives. Exaro is protecting the identity of the two witnesses.
“Referring people to referral agencies is not smart in these cases”
– Sam, on being interviewed by police about suffering sexual abuse
One, who asked to be identified as Sam, said: “I felt that the whole support system was inadequate, ill-conceived and suffered from a complete failure to understand what they are doing to people when they are conducting a historical trawl.”
Following his interview with detectives on Fernbridge, he said, he was left with a list of organisations and telephone numbers. The list included the NSPCC, the charity aimed at preventing cruelty to children, and Victim Support, which gives advice to victims of crime, witnesses and their families and friends.
Sam gave details to detectives just over six weeks ago about his time in care as a boy at Grafton Close children’s home, run by the London borough of Richmond-upon-Thames. He recounted being taken to a private home 32 years ago to be sexually molested by a man.
He told Exaro: “The trauma caused by the police contacting people over events that took place 30 years ago is actually worse than the event itself.”
“The police themselves did conduct the interview with sensitivity. It is the system that fails.”
“It is essential that support is put in place immediately after a historical trawl,” he said.
“The person providing support should have as clear an understanding of the issues as possible, without necessarily knowing the detail of the case, the operation or the evidence of others. Their role is to support, engage appropriate agencies, and work on behalf of the victim to break through the ‘shock period’.
“In practice, this may be need to be several different people, or their engagement needs to be limited so that they do not compromise the validity of evidence gathered. This should be possible because they are an ‘agent’ for the victim in terms of seeking advice and support rather than providing the advice themselves.”
“It is essential that the victims do not have to explain what has happened to them on multiple occasions. Doing it once took me 32 years and I was forced into it. Reliving it is worse than the event itself.
“Referring people to referral agencies is not smart in these cases. It is like setting up a ‘toothache hotline’ and then telling them that they need a dentist.”
The police operation had brought back a lot of bad memories that had been buried for three decades, he said. “You cannot sleep, eat or work; cannot think of anything else; cannot be with people; cannot be alone.
“You are thinking, ‘How is my life going to change? How do I tell my mother? Do I tell my friends?’”
Sam also had a fear about how the media would report the abuse of boys in Richmond three decades ago.
He stressed that he neither regards himself as a victim nor likes to be described as such.
The second man, who gave details to police about how he was in care as a boy at Grafton Close and taken to Elm Guest House to be sexually abused, told Exaro: “I have had to obtain a victim-support person myself. He phones me once a week to find out how I am coping.
“I have also seen my GP, who has prescribed me with anti-depressants and sleeping tablets. I have also spoken with my GP about a link worker to assist me with various areas such as counselling and general support. A referral is currently in process and I am waiting to hear.”
The Richmond scandal uncovered by Exaro chimes with well-documented events at notorious children’s homes around the country.