Northern Ireland news

Social worker suggests 11-year-old child may have been partly responsible for own abuse at hands of adopted father

Suzanne Connolly speaks to BBC Spotlight about her abuse.

A social worker told the mother of a child abuse victim that the youngster may have been in some way responsible for sex assaults at the hands of her adopted father.

In September of this year paedophile John Rossi was jailed for 18 counts of sexual abuse

Suzanne Connolly, who waived her right to anonymity, was just 14-years-old when she first told the RUC that her adoptive father, well known Belfast businessman John Rossi, had repeatedly raped and abused her.

Ms Connolly was one of six children adopted by the Rossi family, who owned an ice cream and chip shop in north Belfast - which has since changed ownership - and lived in a large home in the Malone Road area of Belfast.

Now 47, Ms Connolly told the Irish News last month that she was "considering her options" as to whether to further pursue police and social services for failing to prosecute her abuser more than 30-years-ago when she first reported it.

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Now a BBC Spotlight investigation has uncovered further, more disturbing, details about the failure of social services to protect Ms Connolly, who as a child was known by the name 'Vitzy'.

A recording of a social worker at the heart of the case contains disturbing statements about the victim.

The shocking recording between the social worker and Ms Connolly's birth mother quotes the female social worker as saying while the knew Rossi had abused his adopted daughter "there’s also the question of whether Vitzy abused him".

Ms Connolly's birth mother is heard saying, "She was only 11" with the social worker replying; "She stopped when she was no longer getting anything out of it".

"She’s one of the most powerful children you will ever meet", the social worker states "Destructive, powerful ... If she wants something she’s capable of putting 100 per cent of her energy into it and achieving it".

"When she wanted her father to tell her mother the truth. A big part of her wanted her daddy to herself. I mean she loved her daddy. She thought the mother would chuck him out and she’d get her daddy to herself", the social workers adds.

BBC journalist Peter Coulter contacted the Belfast Trust about his investigation and the Trust said: "With no equivocation, Belfast Trust would wish to state that the victim of child sexual abuse is never to blame for their abuse and in no way can they ever be held responsible for influencing their abuser.”.

"It is a matter of deep regret that there are clearly decisions taken over three decades ago that would be considered wholly inappropriate by today's standards”."

The Trust added that while action was taken to ensure Ms Connolly's safety - she was removed from her adopted home and placed in a children's home - "other aspects of practice would not be consistent with what would be viewed as good practice today".

The Spotlight investigation is available on the BBC IPlayer.

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