UK: 2007 Emma Humphreys Memorial Prizes to Suswati Basu & Mothers of Sexually Abused Children Print E-mail

Commemorative awards are made annually to women and groups who have done exceptional work to combat violence against women and children, and have raised awareness of this issue, whether through writing, campaigning or activism. The aim of the individual prize and the group award is to recognise and reward outstanding and often unsung contributions to the fight against violence against women and children. 

2007 Award Winners

Individual Award: Suswati Basu
Group Award: Mothers of Sexually Abused Children (MOSAC)

Suswati Basu

Suswati Basu is a survivor of gang rape who was subsequently charged and cautioned by the police for perverting the course of justice because of alleged inconsistencies in her account. She fought and succeeded in overturning the caution and has subsequently spoken publicly about her experience at the hands of the police.

She has now become a committed feminist campaigner around issues of sexual assault and is a young woman's ambassador for the Women and Girls Network. As a 19 year old she is keen to network with and highlight feminist issues from a young woman's perspective.

Mothers of Sexually Abused Children (MOSAC)

MOSAC are a support organisation for non-abusing parents. The parents of children who have experienced sexual violence often feel that they are to blame, feel ashamed, and believe they should have realised what was happening. Whilst there is support available to children and young people who have experienced sexual violence, little attention is paid to the needs of their parents.

Two women in this position bonded together to create support, and created MOSAC 12 years ago. Since then they have supported over 600 women and their children through counselling, confidence building, and evening classes, and run a support service for young women who have been abused, in conjunction with a local domestic violence group. They have also trained women who have used the service to become volunteers and support other women.

Despite taking numerous referrals from statutory services, few, if any, give funding for the service MOSAC is providing. The group are largely unfunded, raising money through fundraising, small events and donations.

Previous nominees and winners HERE:

History of Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize

As a child, Emma witnessed many violent assaults on her mother by her stepfather; both were alcoholics. As a result of her brutal home environment, she ran away many times and spent periods in care and on the road. At an early age she began using drugs and alcohol and was exploited in pornography and prostitution. At the age of 16, Emma was homeless and working on the streets of Nottingham as a prostitute.

A client, Trevor Armitage who, at 32, was twice her age, offered her shelter in his home. Emma believed at first that Armitage loved her, the only person ever to have said as much to her. However his possessiveness and desire to control her meant she was subjected to extreme physical, sexual and emotional abuse. Armitage constantly monitored her movements and even nailed down the windows to stop her running away. During this time Emma was gang raped by three men and, despite her distress, Armitage would continue to abuse and rape her.

On February 25th 1985 Emma once again, terrified of being raped, slashed her wrists in an attempt to stop the assualt and hid the knife in panic. Fearing Armitage would then use the knife on her, she stabbed him once and he died a short time later. On arrest Emma’s state of shock was such that she was unable to explain why she had killed Armitage or describe the history of violence and abuse. Because of her extreme traumatisation, Emma allowed the police to construct her statement and could not give any evidence in her defence. Emma was convicted of murder and was sentenced at 17 years old to prison with an ‘indefinite sentence’.

Emma contacted Justice For Women in September 1992 after seeing media coverage of the Sara Thornton and Kiranjit Ahluwalia campaigns. Justice for Women campaigned for 2 years to bring her case to the Court of Appeal by which time Emma had spent over 10 years in prison.

On the 7th of July 1995 Emma’s conviction for murder was quashed by the Court of Appeal and she walked free, greeted by crowds of cheering supporters.

The story was front page news and was a landmark legal case.

For 3 years after her release Emma was an active campaigner for Justice for Women. On the 11th of July 1998 Emma died in her sleep after an accidental overdose of prescription medication. After her death colleagues and friends from Justice for Women set up a memorial prize award in her memory to acknowledge the contribution of Emma and women like her who are working to end violence against women and children.


 Pakistan ~~ Thursday November 01, 2007, Shawwal 19, 1428 A.H
When your child is victim of sexual abuse

Twelve years ago, two extraordinary British women set up an organisation to support mothers whose children have been sexually abused.

Julie Bindel hears some of their stories

Jemma Maguire was living happily with her second husband and her two sons and two daughters from a previous marriage. Then, in 1999, "completely out of the blue", her six-year-old daughter, Mindy, revealed that she had been sexually abused by her stepfather. “And just as we were trying to cope with that, I then discovered that my 11-year-old daughter, Franki, had also been abused by him,” says Maguire.

Finding out what had happened to her daughters was, says Maguire, the worst experience of her life. And it is so much harder, says Maguire, when the abuser is a loved member of the same family. “I threw my partner out as soon as I found out what he had been doing,” says Maguire, “but the police decided to take no action against him.”

Franki laid the blame for the abuse on her mother for failing to protect her and Mindy, and became very overprotective of her younger sister. But worse was to come: “The boys did not believe it had happened so there was quite vicious fighting between the brothers and their sisters.”

Franki began sleeping around and shoplifting. “She was drinking and got in with a really bad crowd,” says Maguire. “She even became violent towards me. I was terrified.”

As a result of the sexual abuse, Franki developed a hatred for her body, and began to self-harm. It became so bad that she began to say she wanted to have sex-change surgery, and would not leave her bedroom for days at a time.

But Maguire was lucky –– if you can call it that –– she was one of the first mothers to receive support from a group aimed at helping people like her. Her local Social Services department referred her to Mothers of Sexually Abused Children (Mosac), based in Blackpool, in the north west of England.

Through counselling, and just being able to talk to people who understood their plight, the family was able to repair some of the damage. Then when Franki was 15, she became pregnant. “Franki could not pretend any longer that she didn't need her mum,” says Maguire, “and I was just waiting for that moment. As it happens, the baby bonded us.”

Now, thanks to Mosac, the family has become close again, says Maguire, and in some ways they have formed an even closer bond than before the abuse.

To date, Mosac –– set up by Sue McGurty and Diana Dickinson in 1995 –– has supported 600 mothers and their children. For parents who discover that their child has been abused, the effects can be profound.

“When we used to do home visits, often, as we were on our way out, the mother would say, ‘Why could I not see it was happening to my child, when it also happened to me?’” Even if this has not been their experience, says McGurty, the mother will inevitably feel guilt.

Both McGurty and Dickinson's families have been blighted by child sexual abuse. Feeling desperation, isolation and guilt as a result, they realised that what they needed was to talk to those who had experienced something similar. McGurty and Dickinson met at a support group run by social services for mothers of sexually abused children. For both it turned out to be a life-changing experience. “When I turned up to the group, and saw 12 other mums sitting there,” says McGurty, “I was really frightened at what to expect. But we were treated as mums struggling with life, not as people to blame. I realised I was not the only one who had gone through what my family had.”

McGurty and Dickinson decided that they wanted to help other mums cope. They borrowed a room from social services, asked for referrals, and Mosac was born.

The organisation has recently been awarded the Emma Humphreys Memorial prize, an annual award given to those who have done exceptional work to combat violence against women and children. Mosac's work is indeed exceptional –– it is one of only two such services of its kind in the UK.

Maureen Todd and her three children, aged between six and 11, were what she describes as a “happy family unit” until her partner began to sexually abuse all three of them. One of her daughters, who has severe disabilities, began to get increasingly angry and frustrated at not being able to articulate to her mother what had happened to her.

When the story came out, and it transpired that all three had been abused, Todd had no idea where to turn for support, until her doctor suggested she contact Mosac. “That was the turning point,” says Todd, “when my kids were able to get the counselling and support they needed, and I was also helped to understand that it was not my fault, and I was a good mum despite what had happened to them.”

Since approaching Mosac nine years ago, Todd and her children have gone from “strength to strength”. “My daughter still comes to Mosac to see Sue and Diana,” says Todd, “and I honestly don't know what I would have done without them.”

The true extent of sexual abuse within the family is largely hidden. “For every incident that is reported, I imagine there are 20 or 30 more that are not,” says McGurty. “Mothers are often too frightened to report abuse. They feel guilty that they didn't prevent it, scared that people will think it is their fault, and terrified that their children will be taken away from them.”

Sandra Allan was referred to Mosac eight years ago after discovering that her three daughters had been abused by their grandfather. “It was the first time I allowed myself to cry,” says Allan, “when I realised that I was not being judged and could completely trust these women.” Like many of the other mothers who turn to Mosac, Allan is now working as a volunteer, supporting other parents.

“Until it happens to someone, they cannot possibly understand the impact sexual abuse has on entire families,” says Dickinson, “and how alone and isolated the mother of a child who has been through this can feel.”

The service is certainly needed in Blackpool. The number of children on the town's child protection register who are vulnerable to or experiencing sexual abuse is, at 16 per cent, almost twice the national average, as are the number referred to children's social services and who are living in care homes or foster families.

What about non-abusive fathers looking for support from Mosac? “They have a different way of coping than mums,” says Dickinson. “Women will sit and talk, and take part in group activities, but men tend not to.” Even so, Mosac has a waiting list for fathers to come in to see a counsellor.

Another problem parents of abused children face is the criminal justice system. Although Mosac offers an advocacy service to help parents and their children deal with the difficulties of prosecuting the abusers, only seven of the 600 cases dealt with by the organisation have resulted in prosecution.

Some families find it impossible to recover from a child's disclosure of sexual abuse, but many, with the support and understanding of organisations such as Mosac, survive and flourish.

But not all mothers are instantly sympathetic or understanding of their children when abuse is disclosed. “That is one of the things we can help with,” says Dickinson. “If the mother blames the child, we try to help them understand.”

Some mothers have talked to Mosac of their anger at losing their relationship (if the abuser is her partner). “We have known mothers say to the child, ‘I have lost my home/job/boyfriend because of you,’ recalls McGurty. “We make her realise the man was abusing her also, to get to the child.”

McGurty and Dickinson are inspiring individuals. They work round the clock, receive no salary, and hear horrendous tales of cruelty and abuse on a daily basis. They somehow manage to get through to the most damaged children and distressed parents, and are regularly credited with keeping families together, and helping them rebuild their lives.

I speak to McGurty and Dickinson the day they discover they have won the Emma Humphreys Memorial prize. What does it mean to them? “That more mums will learn that we exist, and will know that we are there for them if they need us,” says Dickinson. “Because the reality is, child sexual abuse can happen in any family.”Dawn/Guardian Service