Circles of Harm

‘Like a blast from a bomb, circles of harm spread outward from paedophilia making victims of any who stand in its way’

‘Paedophilia generates circles of harm which have caused damage throughout the entire social order which sustains us.’

‘Circles of Harm is a strong statement to abusers that they will be challenged and their actions intercepted by informed and determined frontline professionals who will put in place and maintain the walls of resistance against the global industry of crimes against children. As Kate says, ‘the work is ours to do.’ (Liz Davies: ‘Circles of Harm’ Foreward)

Kate Cairns (2010) Circles of Harm. Surviving Paedophilia and Network Abuse. Lonely Scribe

Many Islington residential and fieldwork staff – managers and frontline – were child abusers and criminals and many were not. Some staff were complicit in the abuse, collaborators with the abusers and facilitated situations that enabled abuse to take place. They are often referred to as ‘colluders’ or ‘facilitators’. Some were senior managers who were informed about the abuse again and again and did nothing. Many others, for a range of reasons, did not see what was happening. The abusers groomed and threatened everyone around them – creating myths about the children, their families and friends and duping other staff into believing their lies. Staff were employed who could be manipulated because they were inexperienced and lacked confidence and knowledge about work with children. Some still suffer in silence, afraid to tell their stories and disclose the horrors they witnessed which continue to haunt them.

It must be mentioned that a very few staff, in order to deflect attention from the abusers themselves, were wrongly set up as being abusive and who were reported to the authorities and Inquiries. In these situations, ISN has unravelled the truth as far as is possible based on survivor’s accounts. ISN believe that the White Inquiry in 1995, when it named 32 staff who should not work with children, may have included some who were innocent. ISN has never seen the list and there has been no investigation. If there had been an investigation these complex strategies by abusers would have rapidly become clear. One example is a social worker accused of having stolen a file at a time when he left his employment suddenly. ISN traced him and met him and believe the official story to be fiction. This leaves the question as to what did happen to the file which still remains missing? .

It was Frank Beck, convicted and abusive manager of a children’s home in Staffordshire, who made sure his staff never went on child care and child protection training courses. Institutional abuse thrives where the home is totally controlled by abusive managers manipulating every aspect of the environment so that the children, their friends and families have nowhere to turn. Training courses of course are an opportunity for staff to raise concerns, ‘test the water’ for the response and to be made aware and more knowledgeable. The power of the abusers, acting within large organised networks of abuse, cannot be underestimated. Islington residential managers would chair reviews and conferences, meet children in the family home and go to court with the children – roles which should have been that of the field social worker. The abusers tried to control every aspect of decisions relating to the children. Other abusers were sometimes in situ as managers of secure units, court officers, police , psychiatrists – at the ready to approve of the abuser’s recommendations for a particular child. The networks were prolific and extended across the country and internationally.

Some children, friends, families, social workers and residential staff did report abuse again and again to senior managers, police and politicians – but went unheard. Some social workers worked hard for the children but found themselves denied visits to the homes or marginalised in making decisions, blocked from taking the children out or to inspect the child’s rooms and living spaces. Staff were often unsupported by managers.

No Islington Inquiry required staff or politicians to be accountable. ISN do not know who exactly gave evidence to the 90s Inquiries, but it is absolutely clear that very few did. In October 1992 when the first of many Evening Standard exposures of the abuse scandal took place – a number of staff left their jobs very suddenly and some went abroad. Some got senior posts in Charities or with other authorities and are still there. The fact they were employed by Islington is often omitted from their biographies.

Staff who did blow the whistle were sacked, refused references, demeaned and demoted. When the fear was overwhelming, the strong bonds formed with trusted colleagues were of the greatest importance to enable the work of exposing the abuse networks to continue.

‘I would not have protected a single child without joint working with trusted colleagues in social services, police, health, education, psychiatry, legal services, probation and of course with non-abusing families and carers. Later in raising the alarm about abuse networks some journalists, newspaper editors and politicians joined the team’. (Liz Davies: Foreward: Circles of Harm)

Over 40 former staff have some forward to ISN & ,with their agreement , we include their voices

Unfortunately there is no support for ex-staff who were also victims of abuse. Being directed to cope with management guidelines at the risk of losing our jobs. And being forced to not interfere as senior staff deprived young people of their rights and liberties. Being taught in staff meetings, with a doctor present, and simulations of how to restrain youngsters, that I now know were illegal. Made to keep quiet, at the risk of our jobs, as other young people brutalised other young people, including rape. Where the victim was actually punished by Islington instead of the perpetrator. And swept under the carpet. Myself personally. I’ve never been the same since I worked with Islington. And my time spent there has caused me severe psychological damage. That will never go away. I was new to RSW work. And ended up being taught the complete opposite to what as right.

Former Islington RSW

I have been questioning myself and trying to grasp how it could possibly be that I didn’t see, hear or understand the hell children in my care were exposed to. I did see all sorts of disturbing behaviour in children as well as some adults around me. The reasons causing it were never clear. Manifold causes could have been behind it. I never, even in my wildest dreams – thought of the possibility of paedophiles. All sorts of other weird and sick things but not paedophiles. How can that be? How is it possible?

Former Islington RSW

We had our own meetings once a month and repeatedly expressed our wish to meet with the heads of homes because we had experiences and viewpoints beneficial to share. The heads of homes showed no interest to have us. I dont recall sexual abuse of children by members of staff or anyone else outside the home ever having been a topic in staff meetings. Permanent members of staff in each home had key children. Today we know that many of these children were sexually abused and worse. Today we also know that some of the permanent members of staff who had key children were abusers and worse. We know this because you brave and relentlessly survivors and whistleblowers never gave up your determination to expose the truth. Thank you each one of you that you didn’t. There was no mention of sexual abuse of children by staff. Never! Paedophilia? Never ever. And yet most of us did work in homes where these terrifying crimes did take place all the time !!! Why wasn’t it a topic in any of our meetings? Why didn’t anyone even hint a thing? Were we all blind? Deaf? Did none of us understand what was going on around us? Were we all a bunch of totally stupid and unprofessional pretenders?

Did this make us supporters of abuse? Active followers? Why didn’t anyone say anything? What do the survivors say? How do they see us? How do they see me? What do they wish from me today?

Former Islington RSW

I was driving and listening to a talk radio programme on the day that a child murderer was released from prison. A caller said he had been in the same children’s home as one of the murder victims, that they were taken away every weekend, sexually abused and photographed by staff in other homes for which the manager received payment. I had evidence that the murdered child had lived in an Islington children’s home until shortly before he was killed – a fact officially denied. I now had confirmation of what other young people had whispered to me: that the Islington child abuse network had extended its poisonous tentacles across the country. I pulled into the side of the road and sobbed. The pain was as raw as it had been years before when as a social work team manager I had found myself in the midst of a child abuse network within the care system. ‘Circles of Harm’ helped me acknowledge the profound impact of abused children’s voices, frightened glances and silences echoing in my head, my disbelief at the numbers of perpetrators within my own profession of social work and my sorrow and disillusionment as I slowly began the long, endless struggle to try and get anyone to care about any of it. Also there were and still are the unanswered questions such as why did a Director of Social Services say that the murdered child had never been the responsibility of the Local Authority and what possible reason could there be for such denial?’

Liz Davies (Foreward: Circles of Harm)