Barnardo’s has been accused of victim blaming after a letter written in 1993 by a project worker claimed a teenage girl could have “avoided” being sexually assaulted if she had behaved more responsibly.
In the letter the children’s charity employee says that the abuse of the 16-year-old girl could have been avoided if she had not placed herself in danger. At the time the girl was staying in accommodation owned by the charity.
“The situation could have been avoided if [she] had not been party to the antics of a group of young men,” the letter, written in 1993, claims.
It goes on to say, “Having consumed a quantity of alcohol and three valium tablets [she] was not able to maintain control or respond to the situation in a constructive and cohesive way."
The victim, now aged 37, spoke to Sky news about her ordeal – claiming that the group of British Pakistani men gave her alcohol and drugs after befriending her and gaining entry to the house.
The woman described how she woke up minus her clothes and noticed there were half-naked men around. She was unsure if she had been raped.
“Their [Barnardo’s] response was that basically it was my fault,” she said. “I need to pull myself together a bit more and not let grown men into the house even though they told me I had to get on with the neighbours.”
“It was fairly conflicting the information I was given. I was barely 16, I had no idea about anything really,” the woman said in an interview.
“When I saw this letter I was quite shocked, I was devastated – they were the people I trusted.
“I think the whole thing concerns me, I don’t know why this wasn’t acted upon and if this wasn’t, what else wasn’t acted upon?”
She stayed in the flat and said over the following six months the abuse escalated and included rape.
The project worker’s letter notes towards the end: “no more incidents have taken place,” adding “there has been some worry in relation to -----’s ability to act and think responsibly, leaving herself and others at risk.”
A Barnardo’s spokesperson said to The Independent they were working on identifying the project worker, but: “From the limited information we have, we don’t believe that she is still working for Barnardo’s.”
In a fuller statement the charity said: “Barnardo’s is shocked at the contents of this letter from December 1993. The view that any child is responsible for their own sexual assault is wrong and totally unacceptable.
“This woman has been very brave in bringing this issue to light. It must have been a very difficult and distressing step to have taken after so many years.
“Barnardo’s takes this very seriously and we will fully investigate.”
Leeds City Council said in a statement: "We are very sorry to hear about what this young woman was subjected to," adding the council was keen to investigate the case.
Read the full letter below:
As you know an incident took place on Monday evening through to Tuesday morning at the above address, which resulted in ---- being sexually assaulted and her housemate ---- money being stolen.
From talking to ----- and ------ the situation could have been avoided if [she] had not been party to the antics of a group of young men from the local neighbourhood. Having consumed a quantity of alcohol and three valium tablets ----- was not able to maintain control or respond to the situation in a constructive and cohesive way.
Having discussed my concerns with yourself and -----, regarding allowing her to continue living in the house, you have concluded that until an alternative placement is found, ---- will remain at ------.
This has been of some concern to me given that has already placed and --- in danger. Over the past week young men who were involved in the events of last Monday have continued to call. However I am pleased to say that ---- has managed these situations well, indicating the capacity to behave in a mature and responsible way.
Although ---- is now taking a firmer grip on herself and no more incidents have taken place, the aim of this letter is to inform you that there has been some worry in relation to -----‘s ability to act and think responsibly, leaving herself and others at risk.
You may wish to respond to this letter and I look forward to your reply.
LEEDS LEAVING CARE
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