AN INQUIRY will investigate institutional failures to protect children from sexual abuse.

The Truth Project will be coming to Brighton in January to give survivors the opportunity to share their experiences in the hope of creating a safer place for children in the future.

Head of the Truth Project Drusilla Sharpling said: “People from all walks of life experience child sexual abuse.

“Whoever you are and whatever your background, the Truth Project is here to listen to you.

“The experiences victims and survivors share with the inquiry will help us make recommendations to keep children safe in future so that institutions and individuals can never again say ‘We did not know’.”

Peter Saunders, victims and survivors consultative panel member said: “Victims and survivors of child sexual abuse often tell me they’ve been silenced, ignored and failed by organisations they trusted.

“That was my experience too.

“We cannot change what went wrong in the past but by talking to the Truth Project, together, we can help to protect the next generation.”

Last week Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne pledged £100,000 of funding for support services for boys and young men who had been victims of sexual exploitation.

It followed a six-month study by the YMCA Downslink Group which identified boys were at risk as well as girls.

The research found that 11 per cent of key stage four boys had experienced unwanted sexual touching in school.

The boys interviewed as part of the research told harrowing tales of being groomed, gang raped, blackmailed and exploited.

Previous research by the Truth Project found that only 14 per cent of victims who reported their abuse at the time said they had been believed.

Many said services and authorities failed to recognise or act on the signs of abuse – driving the need for the project.

The inquiry was established in the aftermath of the Jimmy Savile outrage and is expected to take at least five years to complete its remit of “investigating the extent to which institutions have failed to protect children from sexual abuse”.

The inquiry has promised to look at historic sex offences in the Diocese of Chichester, including that of Bishop of Lewes Peter Ball.

They will be examined as part of the case, which has also promised to look into any influence “people of prominence” brought to bear in his case.

Nine churchmen from the diocese were found guilty of historic offences, or have been named as child abusers by the church, between 2013 and 2015.

Victims wishing to have their voices heard should visit or phone 0800 917 1000 (weekdays from 8am to 8pm).


A HIDDEN number of boys are being groomed and sexually exploited.

Despite the widely held belief that girls were more likely to fall victim to sexual exploitation, research commissioned by the police and crime commissioner Katy Bourne found boys were being gang raped, blackmailed after sharing pictures online, sexually abused by their peers, targeted by drugs gangs and exploited at locations such as Brighton’s gay cruising spot Dukes Mound.

The six-month research project identified a number of harrowing cases.

A nine-year-old boy’s parents were befriended and groomed by one perpetrator, who sexually abused the boy for months while plying him with money and attention.

In many of the cases highlighted, particularly vulnerable boys, those living on the streets or addicted to drugs were taken advantage of.

An 18-year-old homeless youth ostracised by his family after coming out as gay, was taken in by a 75-year-old man.

In another case a boy with learning difficulties was approached by a man he didn’t know and given cigarettes and money before being sexually abused.

A man in his fifties was identified as approaching homeless teenagers and allowing them to stay at his home in exchange for sex.

In nine cases of “sextortion” boys aged under 18 were coerced by people they met online and believed to be female into sharing indecent images online.

They were then blackmailed for amounts ranging from £50 to £50,000 and threatened that the pictures would be shared on social media if the demands were not met.

The report found that gangs from London involved boys in drug dealing operations in Sussex and evidence of boys being sexually exploited as a form of punishment or humiliation.

Boys, including heterosexuals, would travel to Dukes Mound with their friends and exchange sexual favours for drugs or cash.

Identifying Dukes Mount as a site where boys were targeted, the report continued: “One young man we interviewed reported that his first experience of injecting drugs was at Duke’s Mound, where someone he didn’t know injected him.

“Another man stated that drug use at Dukes Mound was prevalent and that he himself had been spiked with ketamine whilst there and unconscious having taken GHB.”

Exploited Many users of Dukes Mound said they supported a higher police presence in the area and valued police telling them if they were looking for missing boys.

However many men did not recognise that young men could be being exploited, saying it was “their own choice” and saying boys and young men having sex with significantly older men was acceptable to most users.

However, one man told the researchers: “We did have one from Wakefield and we thought he were 20 and he went day by day and then we found out he were 14 year old.

“So, you know, we stopped that. We had to ring the police.

“We had to do it. We didn’t want to but we had to.”

So called chem-sex parties, where participants take drugs such as GHB of GBL, known as G, mephedrone, known as meow, and tranquiliser ketamine, were seen as a particular area of concern.

The report said: “There are reports of boys as young as 16 attending chem-sex parties.

“Young men have been given free drugs at chem-sex parties, sometimes by the host so that they feel obliged to have sex with that person.

“There are reports of young men, usually new to chem-sex parties, being ‘put under’ by giving them too much GHB resulting in them becoming unconscious.

“Sexual acts are then performed whilst they don’t have the capacity to consent and they usually remember nothing when they regain consciousness.

“Videos of the parties are sometimes filmed and uploaded to pornography sites without the participant knowing.”

Attendees of chem-sex parties interviewed said participants were often coerced into injecting drugs and there were rarely enough clean needles.

One said he had seen the host of a party force a “young guy” into being injected.

One young victim gang raped at a party said: “I took meow for the first time with the dealer.

“I was really high and he asked me if I would be tied up which I said was fine.

“He kept me tied up and invited other people over.

“Part of me was really scared. When I woke up I realised it was rape.”

The report found these boys’ experiences were just a snapshop of the exploitation taking place in Sussex.


AS A survivor of child sexual abuse, I believe that many things were taken from me.

One of those was my voice.

I was groomed into believing I had to keep the secret. And society conspired in that belief by not talking about what was happening to me or, when they did, by talking about the many like me with a curiosity and disbelief that bordered on contempt.

It took me many years before I could tell someone what happened and the great gift they gave me was unconditional belief and the respect of listening with compassion and respect. That gave me my voice back and I’ve been using it to champion other victims and survivors ever since.

The question I get asked more than any since starting work on this project is “Why does the inquiry have a Truth Project?”. There are a lot of good – and accurate – answers. Our terms of reference talk about giving victims and survivors a chance to ‘bear witness’ to the inquiry.

Many tell us they want to be able to contribute to making future children safer. Some talk about wanting to use truth in a healing way, to make the terrible events of their abuse count for something. And everything we hear will help us to make the best recommendations we can to make a society that is safer for children.

I really hope victims and survivors reading this will seriously consider participating. This project is your opportunity to speak your truth to authority and to be heard and respected.

Visit or phone 0800 917 1000 (weekdays from 8am to 8pm).

  • Michael May is the head of the Brighton Truth Project.