One after another, two stories of children being murdered by their parents hit the news. By the time I’d finished reading, I’d come to the conclusion that being murdered was the best thing that ever happened to them. It was a merciful release from unspeakable torture.

Something snapped inside me. I decided I couldn’t live in a world where things like this happened to children and I did nothing about it. I have never felt as if I made the decision – it much more feels like it made me. And it has driven my life ever since. My problem was I didn’t know what to do.

Soon after in 1995, a senior member of the NSPCC made a speech. He said that in the 50 years since the end of World War Two, levels of child abuse hadn’t gone down one iota. I was shocked. I used to be a trouble-shooter for Unilever, sent across the world to solve business problems with a deadline of two to three weeks. I pictured walking into the offices at Blackfriars and saying: “I’ve been working on a problem for 50 years and I haven’t made any progress yet.” My career wouldn’t have lasted another millisecond.

 

Root causes

I began studying how it was being tackled. I found the same thing all over the world: both governments and charities were tackling child abuse by addressing the symptoms, not the root causes.

It’s not a bad thing to rescue the children who are being abused. Somebody needs to do it. But it does nothing to stop the flow of future victims. I used to turn around loss-making companies, I knew all about the root causes of cost structures. The problem was I had no idea what the root causes of this issue were.

So I went to online chatrooms and asked lots of people – psychologists, psychiatrists, police officers. And everybody was convinced they knew the answer. The problem was they all knew a different answer. I realised that any answer I found had to be underpinned by research. So I decided to study clinical criminology.

After passing my degree and working as a counsellor, I still hadn’t found a charity that was tackling the root causes. In 1996, one of my friends said to me: “If you can’t find one, why don’t you start one?”

So I did, and I’ve dedicated my life to it ever since.