Wednesday, 24 October 2012

No it hasn't gone away has it...


The BBC, assorted hospitals and, it seems at times, most of the British establishment wants us to believe that the abuse reported in the Savile case was somehow a product of an aberrant time and that we'd "listen" to the abused if this happened today.

Can we be so sure?

...the response to cases of children at risk of exploitation was poor, with case files showing staff often considered such young people to be "making their own choices" and "engaging in consensual sexual activity". Often, no further action was taken.

OK so there were no popstars or celebrity DJs involved in the Rochdale case but there is an uncanny similarity between the comments attributed to professional social workers working in that town and those who seem to have turned a blind eye to the antic of Jimmy Savile. Bear in mind that we are talking about 13 year old girls being raped and abused by older men and we were, as we are by what's emerging from the BBC about Savile, shocked that these abused girls were simply ignored or worse still seen as little better than slags - "gagging for it" as Jimmy Savile once described them.

However, the response we are getting is misplaced. What we are seeing is calls for ever more draconian "safeguarding" and controls:

"We need to bring the regulations concerning children involved in performances from The X Factor to panto into the 21st Century to keep them performing safely.

"At the moment they are bureaucratic, go back to the 1960s and are largely ignored."

So says Tim Loughton MP in calling for new rules. And maybe a review of safeguarding in this environment is needed. But it isn't the problem. The problem is that we choose not to believe the child reporting abuse - either seeing it as sexual exploration as did those Rochdale social workers or fantasy - as police dismissed the writings of suicide victim, Clair McAlpine.

It seems to me that our institutions and the men who lead them are inclined to disbelief. And the more celebrated the person the less we are likely to accept the accusers view. Or worse - as with Joe Orton and Gore Vidal - we report on the buggering of North African boys as if that were, ha ha, just a thing they did:

My contact had a certain grotesquerie about him - Sidney Greenstreet with more than a touch of the grande dame, but I got the impression that he'd seen all the expats in his time - from Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal and Joe Orton, who came here for the boys, to Errol Flynn who came for the girls and the Beatles who just wanted to smoke illicit substances. 

It won't go away but we owe it to victims to listen to them. Not just when the abuser is dead but when the abuse is first reported.  And to avoid the way in which - as we know with the Savile case - everyone around the man knows but nobody dare do anything.



Lysistrata said...

Well said. Rochdale, Keighley, Manchester, Leeds..whatever decade or setting.

asquith said...

I sincerely hope that neither the Savile scandal nor other scandals would be possible now, and this is the best thing about the decline of deference. No longer are children to be seen and not heard, which a lot of social conservatives lament, but it also means that we don't see a situation whereby children are ignored or even punished for reporting abuse.

Did you watch Newsnight on (I think it was) Tuesday, the one with Claire Fox and Camila Batmanghelidjh? Apparently people are calling for mandatory reporting of any allegation made, which I wouldn't agree with, because we've seen what our press can do with people like Robert Murat, Chris Jeffries, etc. and it can be devastating to innocent people to be seen as that paedo or that freak who did something, we're not sure what, but best avoid him anyway.

This is a situation that is nigh-on impossible to get right, but the emphasis must be on fairly investigating allegations, neither hushing them up nor assuming they must definitely be true and we always knew there was something dodgy about that weird bloke.

I am pleased that these Rochdale abusers are facing punishment and I don't think Roman Polanski, Jimmy Savile, Irish priests and so on could get away with it today, but there's no room for complacency or for making every adult a suspect, which may have the consequence of depriving children of innocent and beneficial contact with adults who work with them.

TLDR: there IS an upside to seeing mouthy teenagers not silently doing whatever their elders and betters say. And the rule of law is at all times essenntial, as is proper making of the laws.

Anonymous said...

Good post.

The key is for all authorities to start listening to any young person reporting abuse, regardless of the apparent 'stature' of the alleged abuser(s).

Some reports will possibly be false, unsubstantiable or even malicious, but the starting point must be to listen - only after that stage has been completed can the judgement and the systems about what to do next follow.