Supporting abuse survivors

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VULNERABLE Wiganers who were sexually abused as children are being encouraged to share their horrific stories at an event for survivors.

The Dignity Alliance hopes to raise awareness of child sexual abuse and add its voice to demands for justice with the meeting at Ashton pub, The Fleece tomorrow.

The issue has recently garnered headlines in Wigan as Greater Manchester Police (GMP) investigate historic claims of abuse at the Wood End Assessment Centre in Atherton as part of Operation Milan.

The Dignity Alliance hope acclaimed poet and broadcaster Lemn Sissay, who spent time at Wood End and has been extremely outspoken in campaigning for investigations into the remand centre, will attend the meeting.

Three survivors of sexual abuse will share their stories and the organisers hope victims speaking openly will encourage other people with horrific events in their past to come forward and not to suffer in silence.

Dignity Alliance member Rob Austin said: “The greatest assaults on dignity are the rape and torture of children. If we can get people to come out of the woodwork we can get to the bottom of this and get the truth and justice.

“We know there are people in Wigan who are afraid to speak out, so we can introduce them to survivors’ associations and maybe even help to set one up locally.

“There will be more of these events held regularly from now on. This needs to be kept in the public eye until it is resolved.”

The Dignity Alliance will welcome Mickey Summers, who suffered abuse as a child in Nottinghamshire, Nigel O’Mara and Cheryl Corless to Ashton to speak about their experiences.

All three speakers were themselves victims and have campaigned tirelessly for justice for those who were sexually abused or suffered violence as children.

Following the official speeches there will be an open mic session where those who wish to can talk about their own experiences with others.

The issue of historic child sexual and physical abuse in the borough has recently returned to the headlines as GMP is currently investigating more than 40 complaints about Wood End.

Two people, who are believed to be former carers at the remand facility, have already been interviewed in connection with allegations of assaults there between the 1970s and 1990s.

Officers have also identified a further three people it intends to interview as part of its investigation into Wood End.

Mr Sissay has prominently made allegations he was abused at Wood End and recently presented a series of radio programmes in which other people who formerly went there claimed they suffered similar treatments.

Wigan Council has already apologised for the conditions at Wood End, which closed in 1990, but the Dignity Alliance has said it wants every individual responsible for abuse to be found and brought to justice.

As well as its investigations in Atherton GMP is also pursuing several other child sexual exploitation cases as part of Operation Milan, including allegations against the former Rochdale MP Cyril Smith.

The Dignity Alliance is hosting the Child Sexual Abuse survivors speak out event at The Fleece pub on Warrington Road in Ashton tomorrow at 5.30pm.

The event is free but those attending are asked to consider making a donation.