My PhD was awarded today. I feel…vindicated and so proud that I’ve turned the most horrible thing that ever happened to me into one of the best. It means SO much to me. Hopefully, it shows that we are not just victims of circumstance, tossed this way and that by fate, we can have some impact upon the future. I’m not sure yet what I’m going to be doing next but I have a few irons in the fire so we’ll see what works out. Whatever I do I will continue fighting for a better world.
I hope that everyone is well and coping with this very strange time. Two things to update you about. I had my viva and passed! I have to do some minor changes (re-label tables etc) then I’m done – and will be Dr Cunnington.
I’ve also written a piece that’s been published by NAPAC – The National Association for People Abused in Childhood. You can read it here
This article explains why people who have experienced trauma can be calm when they are faced with an emergency. I found it really interesting and obviously very apt at the moment.
I hope everyone is doing ok at the chaotic time. I have my viva soon. When that’s done hopefully I’ll have my PhD and can start sharing my results.
In my research I’ve found a surprising number of academics that minimise the harm caused or even defend child abuse. Oh look here’s one where his research reflects his interests….
You can read about that here. There are many that argue that research should be approached in a scientific manner, without any bias. Personally I don’t think anyone should be scientifically detached when researching such abuse. You can approach your research in a systematic way but you should have an opinion about it. This is why I think we should be honest about our relationship to our research and consider the ethics of it.
Paedophile websites quote favourable academics. This matters because it enables abusers to minimise the harm they will cause. It is not an intellectual exercise – it’s research with real life consequences. We need more researchers, like me, who are honest about experiencing abuse. I am honest because then you know I have an opinion – it’s a blight on humanity – I wish all academics thought the same.
I’m not sure how I missed this – drowning in thesis writing I’d guess – but there was a third APPG report published in October. This included data that I submitted from my research. The APPG recommendations were:
1. All court staff should undergo mandatory training that gives them a basic
knowledge of trauma and its impact on witnesses.
2. The Government should legislate so that witnesses attending a criminal trial under
a court summons or police warning have a statutory right to paid leave and
witnesses without a court summons or police warning have a right to unpaid leave.
3. All survivors of sexual violence and abuse should have an automatic right to
special measures such as video links to give evidence; it should not be at the
4. The Government should urgently make an assessment of the number of
Independent Sexual Violence Advisers (ISVAs), their geographical spread, their
average caseload and the variability in quality of service.
5. The Government should ensure justice is commensurate with the crime by:
• Consulting with survivors of childhood sexual abuse on the appropriate
length of sentences for offenders, taking into consideration the lifelong
impact of abuse
• Extending the Unduly Lenient Scheme to include all child sexual abuse
offences in order that survivors can appeal lenient sentences
• Legislating so that Parole Board always whether offenders seeking
parole have fully disclosed information about their victims
6. Government should publish a revised Criminal Injuries Compensation Scheme
without delay and ensure it consults thoroughly with specialist sexual violence and
abuse services (SSVSS) so that the needs of survivors are reflected in the new
Scheme. The Scheme should include measures to:
• Abolish the unspent convictions rule for survivors of child sexual abuse.
• Abolish the time limit for application for compensation for crimes of
sexual violence and abuse.
• Extend the definition of violent crime, and thereby eligibility for the
Scheme, to include non-contact forms of child sexual abuse including
• Recognise children can’t consent to their own sexual abuse.
The last one is so fundamental. You can read the full report here.
For #WorldMentalHealthDay2019 I’d like to see a recognition of how society affects mental health. For example, for people who have experienced trauma stigma and stereotyping can make them feel worse and stop them asking for help. We all need to change.
Plus we need properly funded and appropriate services. This would mean trauma informed treatment where people are asked about their life experiences. Also no one should be left in the position of not being able to afford the treatment they need.
Finally anyone reporting trauma should be tested for PTSD. It’s very common after trauma and as a diagnosis helps people understand why they struggle with life sometimes. It’s definitely helped me.
The second All Party Parliamentary Group Report (APPG) has been published. You can read it here. This one looks at people’s experience of the Police and Crown Prosecution Service. As before I submitted my research evidence to this. The recommendations are:
- Introduce a victims law with a code of practice, complaints procedure and properly resourced Victims Commissioner
- Amend the Policing and Crime Act 2017 to create a presumption that suspects under investigation for sexual offences against children and adults only be released from policy custody on bail.
- A national cross-government strategy on addressing childhood trauma and adverse experiences. This should include training and support for police officers in how to recognise and respond to abuse in a trauma-informed way and in particular how to communicate investigation outcomes sensitively.
- A national, standardised leaflet for officers to provide survivors with the information they need when they report the crime.
- Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary and Fire & Rescue Services (HMICFRS)
should undertake a national thematic review of non-recent ‘child sexual abuse’ which focuses on the experiences of adult survivors.
Thank you to everyone who contributed. I’m currently writing my thesis so I’m a bit quiet online. However, once it is done I’ll be able to feed back what the results were.