Victims remain silent amid abuse guidelines revamp

New abuse guidelines aim to prevent suffering in the future Credit: David Cheskin/PA Wire

Victims of sexual exploitation are among the most damaged children I have ever encountered in this country.

And as I sat and listened to all the good ideas and proposals on offer today, my mind turned to two of them.

Let's call one of them Jane; I met her in a Manchester suburb last year. I listened as the young teenage mother told me her heartbreaking story of abuse, and how no one in authority had listened to or believed her.

Her case never even got to court and she has since run away from home, leaving her baby behind, and disappeared into the night. Damaged, drinking and missing. Her family is heartbroken.

The other girl I'm thinking of did see her case go to court. She gave evidence in one of the recent high-profile grooming cases. Let's call her Susan.

She has not recovered from the abuse, although she is trying very hard to do so and is being supported by a loving family.

In court, she was aggresively cross-examined and saw her abusers jailed. But for her, the justice done has only partly made up for the ordeal of pushing her case through to the end.

Today's reforms are all about protecting and supporting girls like Jane and Susan, while balancing their needs with justice. For behind these measures are the broken lives of young girls who the system has too often failed to protect.

So far, most professionals involved in child protection have welcomed today's far-reaching propsoals and new guidelines. There have been few dissenting voices.

But neither Jane nor Susan could be found this morning to add their voices to the groundswell of positive reaction.

Jane is missing on the streets, while Susan is too ill and traumatised by what she has been through to want to re-live any of it with me on the phone, let alone on camera. For them, this watershed has come too late.

Those making changes this morning are doing so in the hope that, in the future, others will not suffer in the same way.