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Play puts spotlight on adults suffering lasting impact of child sex abuse

Law firm Leigh Day commissioned the play to support abuse survivors in later life

02 June, 2017 — By Koos Couvée

Actors Tania Van Amse (left) and Marie Fortune rehearsing Finishing Touches. Photo: Diogo Duarte

A NEW play funded by Clerkenwell law firm Leigh Day seeks to highlight the impact child sexual abuse has on victims and their relationships during their adult lives.

Finishing Touches examines childhood sexual abuse through the lives of four abuse survivors – a mother and her daughter and two childhood friends.

The play, which opens next week, was written by award-winning play­wright Brian Daniels and commissioned by the law firm to try to help people better understand the devastating trauma that can be caused by abuse in childhood.

Mr Daniels said: “There’s little doubt that [victims] are impaired in capacity to form relationships and in terms of their psychological capacity. Once you’ve been damaged it has an impact on so many aspects of your life.

“You can get that across in a drama better than in a lecture, people get to understand the characters and their stories and then they make their own decision about what impact abuse has had.”

Alison Millar and Dr Liz Davies (Photo: London Metropolitan University)

Speaking of getting Leigh Day’s backing, Mr Daniels added: “It’s quite unusual. I think it really shows a firm that has a heart to want to support the writing of a play which is not commercial but very important for education and training.”

It is hoped that the play will give a greater under­standing of the issues particularly to those who work with and support survivors such as social workers and police officers.

The idea for the play came about after Dr Liz Davies, a social worker, academic and whistle­blower in the child abuse scandal in Islington children’s homes in the 1980s and 1990s, approached the playwright after seeing one of his plays. It was Dr Davies, who has been working with the survivors of child abuse as part of the Islington Survivors Network for more than 20 years, who introduced Mr Daniels to Leigh Day.

Alison Millar, partner at the firm and abuse solicitor, said that while there is greater public awareness of sexual abuse now than ever before, awareness of the ongoing difficulties for abuse survivors has not caught up.

Brian Daniels. Photo: Diogo Duarte

Abuse is often being described as “historic” in media reports but for survivors it is anything but in the past, Ms Millar said, adding: “At Leigh Day, we have been representing survivors of non-recent abuse for 25 years. We know, from listening to the experiences of our clients, that abuse in childhood can have an impact and legacy lasting long after the sexual or physical assault: the abuse and accompanying breach of trust by an adult can be truly devastating to developing a healthy self-esteem and secure relationships in adulthood.

“We hope that this play will go some way towards highlighting the urgent need for specialist therapeutic services to be developed to support survivors longer-term, helping those affected move beyond survival to heal and to thrive.”

Dr Davies has recently renewed her call for a re-opening of the police investigation into child abuse at Islington care homes 20 years ago.

Ms Millar, whose firm has represented at least 25 Islington abuse survivors, backed the call, saying: “Police should be looking into allegations against perpetrators who might still be alive. People have been waiting for years to have these matters investigated.”

There will be two free performances of Finishing Touches at Fitzrovia Chapel, 2 Pearson Square, W1, 7.30pm, on June 14 & 15, and a further performance at the New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth, on June 16. To reserve a ticket email Mr Daniels at brdan@icloud.com

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