Luke Hastings, Bournemouth Echo
BOURNEMOUTH University hosted an “extraordinary” conference to highlight the impact of child abuse this week.
In partnership with child abuse charity Acts Fast, the university held the conference alongside an exhibition called the ‘Wall of Silence’. The wall showed images and stories to show the impact child abuse has on its victims.
Among the conference speakers were Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, Martyn Underhill and the Lord Lieutenant of Dorset, Angus Campbell.
Survivors, parents and support groups also spoke about their experiences of child abuse and there were discussions about how to try and prevent it.
Chair of trustees for Acts Fast, Dr Andrew Mayers, said: “It was extraordinary to hear the stories. This is absolutely essential. It’s demolishing this wall of silence, where you can’t talk about these things. The exhibition and conference are making it ok to talk about child abuse and helping with the impact of it, whilst raising awareness around it.”
CEO of the Southmead project, who created the wall, Dr Mike Peirce, said: “The exhibition not only highlights child abuse, its impact and the suffering this causes, but also the sheer determination and doggedness of those affected in trying to overcome the aftermath of that abuse: self-harming, substance misuse and sadly, attempts – sometimes successful, to take one’s life.
“Being believed means so much to so many; by their actions in staging this exhibition, the team is giving voice to victims and survivors and are a credit to themselves, Acts Fast, Bournemouth University and the concept of an inclusive, caring society.”
One speaker, Sue Crocombe, was abused as a child and her story appears on the wall.
She said: “I understand that people will feel uncomfortable about the idea of viewing an exhibition on the impact of child abuse. But, as survivors, we want others see it.
“We want them to hear our voices speaking out, breaking the silence of this taboo subject. This exhibition is not just about our pain, losses and confusion. It’s also about our strength, resilience and pride in having survived such a terrible crime.”
The conference and exhibition took place over two days last Monday and Tuesday, with approximately 70 people attending the conference.