Rotherham MP leads tributes at Westminster to ‘forgotten victims’ of child abuse

Tributes at Old Palace Yard in Westminster, during an event in commemoration of victims and survivors of child abuse, addressed by Rotherham MP Sarah Champion (below).
Tributes at Old Palace Yard in Westminster, during an event in commemoration of victims and survivors of child abuse, addressed by Rotherham MP Sarah Champion (below).
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Flowers have been laid in Westminster to commemorate the victims of child abuse - described by one survivor as the “forgotten people”.

The WhiteFlowers Campaign is calling on the Home Office to declare a statutory inquiry focusing on organised and institutional child abuse from 1945, linking with other inquiries across the UK. Among those laying flowers at Old Palace Yard, next to the Houses of Parliament, were survivors and MPs.

Rotherham MP Sarah Champion speaks during a gathering at Old Palace Yard in Westminster

Rotherham MP Sarah Champion speaks during a gathering at Old Palace Yard in Westminster

The group of about 40 people laid a variety of flowers among pictures of victims before a meeting in Parliament to discuss the inquiry and to call for more to be done to help survivors achieve justice.

MPs John Mann, Simon Danczuk and Sarah Champion joined the victims, including 58-year-old Jenny Tomlin, mother of former Eastenders star Martine McCutcheon.

Ms Tomlin, who was there to remember her brother Chris who died aged 17, said she was abused from the age of three.

Asked why it was important for her to be in Westminster for the event, she said: “I think we are the forgotten people. I think we are the forgotten victims, and I think today what’s happening is people are coming out and and they’re being able to have the opportunity to show their respect for all those children that died, that’s still missing, and also to raise awareness throughout the country.

Tributes at Old Palace Yard in Westminster, during an event in commemoration of victims and survivors of child abuse, addressed by Rotherham MP Sarah Champion (below).

Tributes at Old Palace Yard in Westminster, during an event in commemoration of victims and survivors of child abuse, addressed by Rotherham MP Sarah Champion (below).

“Because it’s something that people just don’t like to talk about. And that’s what we want to do. We want to lift their voices as well as our own.”

Ms Champion, MP for Rotherham, led a one-minute silence, and said the most important thing for her was that “the victims and survivors are listened to”, adding: “The reason the Theresa May inquiry is falling down is because the victims weren’t involved in it from the very beginning.

“Their voices need to be heard. For too long they’ve not been listened to, they’ve not been supported, and their perpetrators in many cases are still out there.”

She said she “completely understands” why victims and survivors may have no trust in authorities.

“If, for decades, you’ve been going and reporting your abuse and just seeing it being covered up, why on earth would you start trusting now?

“I think the only way that we can get people to trust us again is by our actions. It’s by delivering, it’s by listening to them, and it’s by catching the perpetrators.”

Mr Mann, MP for Bassetlaw, said he got involved in organising the event to “get a unified voice” for those who have been abused as children and are “fighting for the truth to come out”.

He said he hoped to get “clear, specific” messages of what survivors want to see happen.

“The more that they speak with one voice, the stronger that voice, the more they’ll be listened to.

“For too long there’s been a wall of silence over child abuse in this country,” he said.

Mr Mann said it is “vitally important” to earn the trust of survivors, and said victims being believed is “fundamental”.

Speaking about his own constituents, he said being believed is “number one for them”, adding: “Then they want to see other actions. Some want to see prosecutions. That’s their prerogative. It’s about empowering those who’ve suffered this abuse.

“That’s what today’s about.”