Hundreds of health visitors, counsellors, teachers, police officers, students and charity workers attended a conference at BU on preventing child abuse and recognising grooming.
Child Abuse – The UK’s Dark Secret, invited speakers from national charities Enough Abuse and Acts Fast. The conference is the first of its kind to be hosted by a university in the UK and highlighted the importance of tackling such a taboo subject head on.
The afternoon began with introductions from Dr Andrew Mayers, Senior Lecturer in Psychology at BU and Amanda Gulliver, from Acts Fast a charity who provide trauma support and advice for abused children and their families.
Co-founder and CEO of Enough Abuse UK, Marilyn Hawes, gave an impassioned talk on the tell-tale signs of grooming and abuse of children. She emphasised the fact that it’s not just the children who are groomed by the abusers but the adults who look after them too. As a mother of abused children herself, Marilyn spoke candidly about her own experiences and how important it is to listen to your instincts when it comes to protecting children. During the talk she engaged the audience, questioning perceptions of what abusers look and act like and what constitutes grooming.
Marilyn commented on the event, “This is innovative, it’s a first, no other university’s done it. They have a passion to do something better in the next decade than we’ve done previously and be educating people how to look for grooming, how it makes you feel when you’re watching it.
“This is essential to be able to prevent abuse happening. No policy or process or procedure is going to stop abuse, all it does is deal with the reporting on it. We have to do better than we’ve done and that starts with knowing about grooming.”
Andy Mayers who was one of the organisers of the conference, commented, “My professional interest focuses on the impact of abuse. Evidence, and my own observations of working with many service users, confirms that child abuse presents a significant risk factor for serious and long term mental illness, eating disorders and self-harm.”
He continued, “Lives are shattered by abuse, and many adults never fully recover. We need to do more to prevent abuse, but we also need to work more closely with those who have been abused, to help deal with the consequences, and perhaps reduce the risk of developing mental health problems.”