child protection, child protection investigation, Gisburne House, Islington Survivors Network, Organized Abuse, social work, Survivors, Uncategorized

The horrors of Gisburne House

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Gisburne House was built in Watford, Hertfordshire in 1912 as an industrial school for girls. The photo above is from that era and the other photo is from a World in Action (1977) programme . In 2017, Islington Council officials have no knowledge of Gisburne House and no documentation of any kind about it. When we ask them to check names of staff alleged to be abusive, it seems these staff have vanished into thin air.  It is as if all corporate memory of 30 years, and hundreds of childrens lives, has been erased.

Not of course in the minds of the survivors who are coming forward to Islington Survivors Network (ISN) to tell of their experiences during the 70s and 80s. They describe how they still cannot sleep  because of the flashbacks and in the daytime they are traumatised by all kinds of smells, situations and events which trigger memories of sexual crimes, emotional devastation and extreme violence. They show us the physical signs of long-ago beatings, have intense concern about child victims of cruelty which they witnessed and question why seemingly nice social workers did not hear their repeated cries for help.  After years of being on constant high alert,  trying to protect themselves and others from abuse, I always ask – ‘Is there anywhere now where you feel safe?’ After a long pause, even from those who now have settled relationships and very supportive, loving families,  the answer is generally ‘No’.  They now seek justice and redress. Continue reading

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Islington children: Poems 1990

I wrote these poems in 1990 at the height of my investigations into the child abuse scandal. I am not a poet – that will be obvious. I wrote many I cannot include but they were my way of expressing how I felt at the time. They represent brief moments within all the efforts our small team were making to keep children safe from sexual exploitation.

The neighbourhood office or local ‘patch’ social service structure in Islington during the 90s,  meant that children came into the office themselves – even young children on their way to and from a care home, school, police station or local park. They knew we would  listen even when they could not find the words to tell us about what was happening to them.  Nowadays, it would be almost impossible for a child to get themselves to a social worker past security systems and large bureaucratic structures where they would be given a number like at an Argos shop and told to wait. With high staff turnover, they may not even know a social worker to ask to see – someone who would know them and their family.

Inquiries in Islington in the 90s blamed the decentralised, local office structure for the lack of a proper management response to the abuse being exposed. Yet without friendly shop fronts and ‘pizza-hut’ style offices, we would never have got to know the children or developed their trust. This led to us, as a team, slowly putting together the fragments of the information the children gave us and collating evidence from the many small clues they presented about the adults abusing them.

Please be aware some of the content is distressing and keep yourself safe.

Quiet voice

She hung her head and

Spoke

In soft, dull tone

One word blended with

The next in a stream of

Unspecific sorrow.

 

Sometimes she said, a male voice

Was in her head.

 

She waited hour on hour

To see

Someone, anyone.

‘What’s she here for’?

They said.

‘She’s here again’

‘Not again’

‘There’s no dialogue.

What’s the point’?

 

Some persisted,

Reaching out within the pain

Entering inside the enigma

And barely holding on.

 

Still she came

She was so young.

 

He trapped her every day

Six times.

She cannot fight.

He gave her drugs.

He pinned her down.

 

Her inner voice kept her sane.

The phantom male loved her while

The abuser stole her body

And tore her mind.

 

Now she can – now and then

Look me in the eye

For one small fleeting moment only.

 

Social worker

I shout

They do not hear

 

I shout and shout

They cannot hear.

Professional abuse

By managers

Who cannot hear

Me shout

 

The shouting will

Get louder

And stronger

 

Because children

Cannot

And do not

Shout.

 

Birthday

I don’t want my party

I don’t want my presents

I don’t want my birthday.

 

I’ve started menstruating

They want me now

They want to rape me.

They want me now.

 

I don’t want to go home

I don’t want a birthday.

 

London flat

Two little blonde boys

Can’t be very old

Snuggled under a large duvet

In a living room

with a big TV.

 

Big space in between them

Ready made for one

To snuggle in beside them

In his greasy dressing gown

With his soft, soft touch of hate

and hurt, hurt

Hurt.

 

Child

Sullen and pouting

Shrugging shoulders

and head tossed high.

‘I know what I’m doing’

As we got closer

She said

‘If you grass – they slice you’.

 

She hasn’t been sliced

She didn’t grass

We didn’t push her.

She knows where we are

if the going gets too tough for

one

12 year old.

 

Question and Answer

I wonder how a child

Who is being tortured day and night

Whose body aches and pains

Can sing

Or laugh

Or anything?

 

How can such a child

Play in the playground

And pretend

So perfectly?

 

There’s no feeling

That’s how it’s done.

 

Teenager

You stare from somewhere

Under your eyes

Your half smile

Is mere politeness.

 

No-one believed you

Over 15 years.

 

They thought you liked

Wearing girl’s clothes

And thought you were

Weird

In fearing blood.

 

But he was such a nice friend

To you

So perfectly respectable

So plausible.

 

He gave you so much

So many outings and sports activities.

To a deprived child.

 

No one saw the volumes

Of naked photographs

Album upon album.

 

He had created you

For him.

 

When the police got him

You were angry

Outraged

 

Because now you

Would have to see if

You were anywhere to be

Found.

 

Pit-bull

This dog knows evil

I can taste it

It licks me

I feel unclean

 

It knows no love

It is a dog of hate

It tears at the leash

It bares its teeth

It hates

And hates.

 

Its owner says

‘Social workers one and two –

Assassinate, assassinate’

But kindly spares me

Pulling the straining leash.

 

I’m glad to leave.

I feel shaky.

My mouth tastes sour.

 

Young brother and sister

‘Give us money’

‘Why’? I said

‘Mum says you must’

‘Why’? I said

‘You’ve got to

Or we daren’t go home’.

‘You seem so scared’, I said

‘We are we can’t go back

Without money’.

 

‘Will she hit you’?

‘No.’

‘Will she shout’?

‘No’.

 

The tears they poured.

 

‘Please, please, please the money

You can do it – please.’

‘Is it something you can’t tell me’?

‘Yes, she’ll make us earn it’.

 

‘Of course I’ll give you

The money

You can come in whenever

You want, you know

I will listen.

 

I won’t be shocked

But I know it’s hard to tell’.

 

Drawings

Naked men and women

Naked children

Writhe around in these

Drawings.

 

Men with breasts

Women with penises

Children on the ground

Unusual drawings for a 4 year old.

 

Spikey, spidery lines

Cross-cross over all these

Images.

 

A vain attempt to camouflage

The excruciating pain.

 

Afterwards

You’re curled up on the sofa

In this safest of places

Nurtured and cossetted.

 

Your face no longer taut

Your body now relaxed

Your head no longer bowed.

 

No more do you ask others to speak for you

Because you say it all yourself in

Your own time.

 

You need restoration

You need space

Because a paedophile nearly

Stole your heart and soul.

 

Rabbits

Children don’t hate rabbits

These children do.

 

They say the rabbits die

They say the rabbits are killed

 

But they say they haven’t seen

A dead

Rabbit

 

So how do they know?

How are they so sure?

How do they hate so much?

 

So many rabbits they say

Gone.

 

‘Uncle’

The boys all love you

Such a nice man

Gives them fags and money

For a little bit of fun.

 

Gives them dope and music

Loves to see them dance

Buys them trendy trainers

Even trips to France.

 

Why is it I loathe you

When I see you pass me by?

With a happy little smile

To say ‘Nice aren’t I?’

 

I see you with these children

I see through your lies

They say they like your company

But I can hear their cries.

 

They cry behind a tearless face

They cry inside their souls

They cry for each other

As torture takes its toll.

 

I see their awkward glances

I see their painful walk

I offer them escape routes

 

But not one of them

Will talk.

 

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child protection, child protection investigation, Islington Survivors Network, Organized Abuse, Sandy Marks, Survivors, Uncategorized, Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015

Sandy Marks: In 2014 I asked for a dialogue

This letter was emailed in 2014 to Sandy Marks, former Chair of Islington Social Services Committee and Mayor, via the Head of Services and Consultancy of  Disability Action in Islington  who had agreed to forward it to her as she was Chair of the charity. The content is self-explanatory and asks her to discuss with me her perspective on the Islington child abuse scandal.  In the absence of confirmation, it is possible she did not receive it. Following the Islington Gazette article, 11th May 2017,  I thought it would be of wider interest.  See Islington Survivors Network website for further context. Continue reading

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child protection, IICSA, Investigative Interviewing, Islington Survivors Network, Operation Hydrant, Organized Abuse, prisoners, Survivors, Truth Project, Uncategorized

Survivors in prison – IICSA ‘Truth’ Project may put them at risk

A recent initiative for the so called ‘Truth’ Project to ask prisoners to share their experiences of child sexual abuse with facilitators from the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) raises many questions and concerns for me.  I say ‘so called’ because the project includes no published criteria or methods for testing the accounts so ‘Listening to Survivors Project’ would be a far more accurate title. Continue reading

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brain scans, child protection, children's consent, children's rights, Kids Company, Neuroscience, Uncategorized

Child victims of neuroscience?

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In 2002, Prince Charles first gave Camila Batmanghelidjh, CEO of the former charity Kids Company, the idea of considering the impact of child abuse on children’s brain development. He presented her with 25 clinical papers on the topic.  From that moment I was suspicious because the idea was so wide as to include the impact of all kinds of trauma making any research very confused in aim. Also, the method of research was to scan the brains of ‘troubled teenagers’ which seemed to be more about a social control agenda. I had already detected mixed messages  about the aims of this children’s charity  (Evening Standard: 11.09.2009). Continue reading

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child protection, children's clothing exchange, community action, Neighbourhood social work, Patch social work, social work, Uncategorized

Community work – protecting children

Some more recently qualified social workers are gaining a strong voice on social media and even in the mainstream press with all kinds of comment about the professional role of social work. In this context, I thought it would be useful to put across to those hungry for knowledge, a model of social work practice which has been around in the past and worked well.

Protecting children from sexual exploitation and abuse cannot be considered in isolation, but is one key element in an integrated approach to supporting children and families within their communities. … Local people show immense commitment to their children, young people and neighbourhoods. They can provide the resources of time, knowledge, imagination and skills to reduce risks of harm and support environments where children flourish.

(Nelson and Baldwin, 2016)

It was the late 80s and I had a plan – A Children’s Clothing Exchange –  a swap shop for children’s clothes as a basis for developing a community network on an inner London council estate. My social work colleagues were severely critical. They said this initiative was definitely not Politically Correct. They said what I was doing was degrading for families who were deserving of new clothes and would be ashamed to have their children seen in hand-me-downs.   They said I had not appreciated a local working class culture of being proud and that families would not dress themselves or their children in second hand clothes.

This didn’t make sense to me as I had come from a family where most of my clothes came from jumble sales, relatives and friends. Our next door neighbour gave my mother off-cuts from the clothing trade and as I grew out of knitted cardigans they would be unravelled and re-knitted into a bigger size. Jumble sales provided a good source of wool and fabric that could be re-invented.  It was a post-war ‘make do and mend’ approach. Nowadays it’s called recycling. Continue reading

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Aston Hall, child protection investigation, Cleveland Inquiry, East Midlands Survivors, Goddard, Haut de la Garenne, IICSA, Investigative Interviewing, Islington Survivors Network, Kendall House, Morris Fraser, Organized Abuse, Shirley Oaks Survivors, Truth Project, Uncategorized, Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015

‘Goodbye’ Goddard though I never said ‘Hello’

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(East Midlands Survivors logo)

Following the very sudden, unexpected and unexplained resignation of Justice Lowell Goddard as Chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) , I have been thinking about comments on social media which have suggested that she refused to address the Islington child abuse scandal in the Inquiry. To put the record straight, she did not refuse because neither I nor the Islington Survivors Network asked her. Continue reading

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