Update on work with the Shirley Oaks Survivors Association.
We have had a good phone meeting with Lucia from the Shirley Oaks Survivors Association, they have been through a very similar process to the one we are going through and it’s great to learn how they achieved their final redress scheme.
In the main we are doing exactly what we should be doing and our progress is admirable, but there are things we can learn from.
The main pointers were:
Get legal representation so it is a fair playing field, this is likely to be through a pro bono barrister, solicitors that specialise in sexual abuse will normally only take the individual cases they feel they can win, which is fine and good, but there are many many who experienced psychological, physical and financial abuse where it wasn’t illegal but is still abuse. This is where a group action would work. Use the threat and pressure of large scale financial claims backed up with a barrister to force their hand to agree to a comprehensive redress scheme.
Get your stories out into the media, there is no problem to give anonymous testimonies with voices changed etc, these are still very powerful. The media will not be one silver bullet, it will be an ongoing process and once there is the first broadcast there will be lots of interest. Stay in control and only give them the stories you feel comfortable with, and always keep a few back. Once people see that they are treated well and believed by the media, more people will feel able to come forward and tell their story.
Not all victims will be happy with what you are doing, and even once you achieve your aims some will still be unsatisfied. But that does not mean you should stop, it is vital work and will help and give a voice and redress to so many, but you will never please everyone.
Consider doing your own investigation, this was the turning point with Shirley oaks and when the council finally admitted liability. There had been numerous ‘independent’ inquiries before hand but all had been a white wash.
Collate enough damning data and present it in a way that is irrefutable.
Consider raising proper funding so that members can devote more time to the work being done, it can take over your life and doing the work on top of a full-time job and family can be too much.
Be clear about your aims and objectives and don’t get side tracked.
Give all victims including under age peer to peer abuse complete anonymity.