In a recent podcast we discussed the Jeffrey Epstein case and in particular, how in our experience of representing survivors we find time and time again, how child sex abusers groomed not just their victims but those around them.
It has been suggested in the media recently that Prince Andrew was used by Epstein as “bait”. We have no knowledge either way as to whether this is right or wrong, but it’s interesting that the term was used, because it dovetails with our experience.
Survivors and those close to the abuser frequently complain of being manipulated. Grooming is common currency in Child Sexual Abuse cases with the abuser constructing what can only be described as a “relationship” in order to create the opportunity to sexually abuse the victim. The trust of those in the vicinity is also sought to gain access, and to inhibit the victim from complaining.
The manipulation does not stop when the sexual abuse ends. Survivors often recount how it continues to prevent them reporting. The abuser is often in a position of power or has some kind of control over their victim for example teacher and pupil, priest and worshipper etc.
The manipulation can continue post reporting of the sexual abuse to the authorities. The abuser may deny the allegations, and make counter-allegations designed to discredit the survivor. The effect of this cannot be under-estimated.
It is interesting that the Harvey Weinstein case, and the reports that there may be an out-of-court settlement, has given rise to claims that his alleged victims are being manipulated. This gives an insight as to the powerful dynamics at play when there are legal proceedings underway and also, when there is the prospect of a settlement. For many a survivor, bringing a civil claim for compensation is empowering and cathartic, but we need to alive to the fact that for some when a defendant makes an offer to settle it can be seen as another attempt to control. Survivors understandably can be very sensitive to any suggestion or attempt to control them. For our part in representing them we make the point that they are in control of their situation and that nobody is going to order them to do anything against their will.
It is absolutely vital in our experience for survivors to be represented by experienced and specialist lawyers when bringing a civil claim against their abuser or those responsible for the sexual abuse suffered.