Rotherham

Aug 29, 2014 by

This is the article I produced for the Guardian online yesterday about the Rotherham report:-

“When Alexis Jay talked to her report on Rotherham you could see and feel the emotion behind it.

The very thought of hundreds of young children being raped , traded and consistently disbelieved, struck deep into the comfort zones of all who listened.

Inevitably , the litany of failures by political and officer leadership led to media outrage and it probably didn’t need to go far to tap into large swathes of the population given Professor Jay’s

Add to this the fact that most of the perpetrators were of Pakistani heritage , one immediate conclusion was that, due to political correctness, the minimising and regular underplaying of the problem had been because all involved had been scared to say anything in order to avoid serious community tensions.

If this, in addition to the police failing to act on many occasions and dismissing the children when they complained  is true and the alleged suppression of previous reports is also true then I agree

that all involved need to be dealt with according to their failings.

All this, however, seems to take the focus off the needs of all child victims and survivors of sexual abuse who have to live with the consequences for life. Our duty of care, even if our duty of protection fails, is to provide the best possible help and support and do all we can to try and enable them to achieve something resembling a normal adulthood.

When the Somerset levels flooded we called it a national disaster and channelled funds to help. I think that the scale of child sexual abuse in our country equates to a national emergency and there is strong argument to resource the needs of survivors to a much greater level.

All the children will have individual needs and so a menu of support , properly resourced and away from front line services would be a start. This could be any combination of therapeutic help, practical support, mentoring, group work or any number of other mechanisms. All of this exists already but not in the quantity or commitment needed to sustain the level of need. The shockingly underfunded children and adolescent mental health provision and the far too thinly spread youth services are all casualties of spending cuts. Provision such as The Green House charity in Bristol ( previously the Avon Sexual Abuse Centre ) that provides psychotherapeutic counselling for victims of sexual abuse—children, women and men—is an example of an excellent provision that always has to have one eye on raising funding as well as delivering services.

The thousands of people, many now in adulthood, who still live day in day out with the demons created by their abuse in childhood and who’ve never had the opportunity or the trust to seek help

deserve better. The scale of the problem is huge. When the Register of offenders was created in 1997 it was not made retrospective. The word at the time was that if it had been there would have been 250,000 names on it.

We are getting better at working with sexual abuse—assessing risk and employing far more sensitivity and understanding towards the victims—but data collection is still hugely sparse and badly coordinated so the building blocks of solutions are shaky.

If we could get on with the all encompassing root and branch national Inquiry announced by Teresa May that would at least be a focal point for progress but since Elizabeth Butler –Sloss stepped down we seem to have lost momentum.

In the meantime much of our media gets consumed by the need to blame or cul de sacs about race whereas the truth is that all men who abuse children are equal as criminals. Sure, we need more understanding of individual abusers behaviour—which is where another under resourced facility like the Faithful Foundation does excellent work —or recognising the part played by organised crime in trafficking children from town to town—and looking into some specific behaviours where groups are involved. There’s increasing information out there ( and I haven’t even talked about the continuing problem of hundreds , if not thousands, of men who go abroad to abuse children and ,of course, don’t stop when they come home)but I’m not sure how much wisdom is around.

There’s always the “just bring back hanging” cry and the sometime simplistic “ find some official to blame” shout but even if the latter happens it doesn’t move the chronic problem forward.

I’m all for the” find them, interrupt them and jail them” plan but its got to be supported by the

“ beleive the child, support them and give them real help” plan

The problem is certainly of a scale to merit significant resources and the fact that we currently indirectly abandon so many who deserve so much more gives substance to Alexis Jay’s sensible recommendations for improving our performance.”

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