Victims of sexual abuse were shown a bright sign of support from Cumbria when a landmark building was lit up to highlight their plight.

Carlisle’s Citadel was illuminated in pink on Thursday as part of a national campaign to raise awareness and funding for the Maggie Oliver Foundation.

The charity was set up in 2019 by Maggie Oliver, a former detective who resigned from Greater Manchester Police in 2012 to expose the Rochdale grooming scandal.

To this day, Mrs Oliver’s relationships with the victims continue and she is still fighting for justice. But she says the scale of the problem is widespread and has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 crisis.

“My journey over the last eight years has led me to know without a shadow of a doubt that this problem of children being sexually abused, and failed by the authorities who are meant to protect them, has not gone away. If anything it is getting worse” she said.

“There is a problem in Cumbria with child sexual exploitation and child abuse, as there is throughout the whole of the UK, and the foundation is there for survivors and victims who have nowhere else to turn.”

This year, the foundation is expanding and wants to reach more people. A 30-strong team of ambassadors have been recruited to work with victims of sexual abuse and a crowdfunding campaign has launched to raise money to set up a helpline called Pain into Power.

Ambassador Jane Kirby, of Caldbeck, is urging people to show their support and is encouraging businesses to make the Maggie Oliver Foundation their charity of the year in 2021.

“We are getting about 1,000 referrals a month and we haven’t even gone live yet,” said Mrs Kirby, a former social worker. “This is a huge, huge problem.”

According to the NSPCC, 31 per cent of women, aged 18-24, report having experienced sexual abuse in childhood, while it is reported only five per cent of all reported rape cases end in conviction.

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