Following the exposure of Jimmy Saville’s abuse in 2012 and the huge media attention that followed the public could be forgiven for concluding that in recent times sexual abuse is perhaps not quite as prevalent.The combination of the tumultuous media coverage of Brexit, combined with Covid-19 dominating our every thought in the last year, has meant the horrific reality of childhood sexual abuse has lost its prominence on the public radar.
We should be under no illusion that the rate of sexual violence of children and adults continues to be endemic within our society, and we need to constantly challenge society to acknowledge this reality. The constraints imposed due to Covid have inevitably created opportunities for sexual predators. Vulnerable children and adults in lockdown are easy prey for sexual predators within the family home. Children no longer have the outlet of school for respite or as a resource for disclosure. Vulnerable adults too are inhibited from disclosing due to the social constraints imposed by the Coivd regulations. Children in lock down are also more vulnerable to be exploited online.
We must continue to fight the tendency to stigmatize sexual abuse, to not talk about it or even worse, to become complicit in it. We must continue to shine a light on sexual abuse and sexual violence, raise awareness of it and ensure that victims are empowered to seek help and support. As a society we should continue to develop systems and resources that encourage people to come forward and get the help they need. Victims should not suffer in silence but should feel encouraged to report abuse to the police, despite the current Covid restrictions.
Sexual abuse and sexual violence is a deeply damaging reality. Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week is a national event aimed at building awareness of and campaigning against sexual violence and abuse.
Each year members of the public, support groups, organisations and statutory bodies help to spread the message that #ItsNotOkay to abuse and harm others. The aim is to create awareness and generate discussion about sexual violence and abuse, to empower victims to speak out.
During this Sexual Abuse and Sexual Violence Awareness Week 2021, let’s do our best to put it back into the public domain so that no victim feels unable to speak out and seek support.