"What can be said about the unfolding tale of Jimmy Saville, his countless victims and the possible inaction of those who knew or suspected?
Two view points I have heard and read about in amongst the headlines and enquiries are that 'Surely this kind of thing couldn't (doesn't) happen anymore' and 'This shows that sexual violence and child abuse is being taken much more seriously these days'.
Mmmmmm... without wanting to be overly negative, I don't subscribe wholly to either view. Regarding the idea of targeting, grooming and exploitation of children is an historic issue, the evidence definitely does not point in that direction. The most recent figures show that 21% of girls and 11% of boys experience sexual abuse in childhood. And, just as appallingly, that 30% of these children reach adulthood without telling anyone. That's not 20, 30 or 40 years ago. That's now. The majority of people contacting Rape Crisis Centres nationally, are calling about sexual abuse that occurred in their childhood. Children too scared to tell anyone; too ashamed. Children who have been manipulated and frightened into silence. Children who feel they have no where to go and no one to turn to.
And I think that this links into the second viewpoint, that all the current publicity and abhorrence is evidence that our society has turned a corner on acknowledging the seriousness of these crimes. I do think that progress has been made in the last few years: safeguarding children has been acknowledged as the responsibility of all organisations, not just social services and the response from the Police has vastly improved. More than that, the last two governments have been more proactive in highlighting violence against women and girls as a priority (Devon Rape Crisis Service wouldn't exist without the commitment of the Ministry of Justice).
Yet, what the current headlines show about British society are:
- it's easy to accept the notion of a child abuser who is seen as different, wicked, depraved - it's easy to swallow the demonised abuser.
- we love to see an iconic celebrity topple from grace.
But does this help us understand and accept that most child abuse is perpetrated by parents and care givers? Does it enable the child who is being abused by a father anywhere new to go? Does it make it more likely that a fearful child will feel confident to tell someone?"