Child abuse may be painful and too awful to contemplate, but…

Courtesy of Guido, who says the new Acting DG walked out of an interview with Dermot Murnaghan on Sky News. Well, he did physically walk off, but I didn’t see him run from a question, he just went back to work.

Perhaps if the ex DG had taken a similar attitude with the first story, perhaps this mess might not have become as great as it has.

For me there’s two serious questions to answered (and a third even more serious one that subsequently arises):

What should exercise people is the huge numbers of people coming forward to allege abuse at the hands of Savile now the old man is dead. The sheer weight of numbers is scary.

But, as of this point in time, we still don’t know if he is guilty of all, some or none of those alleged offenses. But we are all apparently sure the BBC should have outed him, presumably on the basis that dead men don’t sue.

On foot of that empty controversy the BBC’s accountability chain was gutted sufficiently to contribute to this second and deadly serious complaint.

And in the midst of it all is the opportunity cost of gazing at the BBC’s publicly-owned navel rather than looking at the wider problem of what we as a society can do about child sex abuse.

In truth no one wants to talk about that because it is painful and too awful to contemplate. Horse whipping the BBC is much more fun.

At some stage we need to have a grown up conversation about the sexual abuse of children and how we might create the best possible conditions for preventing, detecting and punishing it.

Lord McAlpine must have his day in court, but as it stands now, we’re mostly finding out about horrendous abuse, long years after the victims have spent most of their adult lives living with the stigma and the guilt all on their own.

  • Framer

    Not so. The report on Kincora was published in 1986. (Hughes, W.H. Report of the Inquiry into Children’s Homes and Hostels, Belfast).
    That on the Welsh homes, the Waterhouse review, in 2000, while reports about priestly paedophilia in the south have been issued in numbers more recently admittedly going back many years.

  • Some guidance from Parents Protect

    NSPCC – Statistics on Child Sexual Abuse:

    Disclosing sexual abuse (see page 118)

    More than one in three children aged 11-17 (34%) who experienced contact sexual abuse by an adult did not tell anyone else about it.

    Four out of five children aged 11-17 (82.7%) who experienced contact sexual abuse from a peer did not tell anyone else about it.

  • Mick Fealty

    Framer, which part in particular?

    Kincora was a review of the system (TORs here, Useful enough, but the fact of the subsequent church inquiries on alleged abuse in homes in Northern Ireland ( demonstrates that such reporting comes with obvious limitations.

  • Framer

    Useful link on the setting up of the Hughes inquiry in 1984. There was discussion in his report related to witnesses giving evidence at his inquiry about both the known abuse and the supposed ring.
    Report inaccessible, but I recall the story of a ring involving top Tory paedophiles of the Thatcher era was not regarded as credible, and certainly no evidence of it was given.
    There were at the same time as the 1981 convictions of the three Kincora wardens (including the ‘Beast’ McGrath), several relating to a couple of other homes.
    In the case of abusers in Catholic homes, there were no convictions as I recall, although at least one person was charged. His case (in the Rubane home in Kircubbin?) was dropped due to a terminal illness and he was sent south to a monastery to recover.
    The RUC at that time, like the Guards, allowed the Catholic Church to deal with such matters internally without recourse to the criminal law.
    Self-policing and being a law unto itself, of course, came to haunt and almost destroy the Church later, as all the decades of accumulated and unchecked abuse emerged in a short space of time.
    That is not to mention Fr. Brendan Smyth who managed to bring down a government, if not a Cardinal.

  • Mick Fealty

    I’m not arguing we need more inquiries. But we need to take the position of children in this iniquitous position much more seriously (and less hysterically).

    So whilst we rightly hammer institutions: Penn State, Boy Scouts of America, the Catholic Church, and latterly the BBC, release for the victims is often late in life and long after the facts can be easily proven and action taken.

    In other cases, the Bethany House victims group for example, victims are still having to fight to get taken seriously even by government ministers charged with dealing with such legacies.

    In all of these huge burdens are heaped on the actual victims themselves to prove their case against often ruthless individuals.

  • andnowwhat

    Looks like we may have our own, minor version

  • tacapall

    “victims are still having to fight to get taken seriously even by government ministers charged with dealing with such legacies”

    Reminds me of Hollie Greig Mick, still fighting for justice after all these years it seems those that have the power to grant “release” for victims are the very people who she wishes to expose. Like Jimmy Saville, allegations were made but not acted upon, the victims were dismissed as liars or fantasists by the authorities for lack of evidence, political interference or opportunistic reasons. It just seems if you have money and power you have immunity when it comes to child abuse.

    Im sure you have heard of Bill Maloney and some of his work on this subject Mick, very disturbing and very thought provoking its unbelievable what we dont know that goes on around us.

  • Mick Fealty

    Yes, except that guy is going right down the same route the BBC has in the second case, and many of its critics did in the first.

  • tacapall

    People are free to make up their own minds as to the validity or accuracy of the allegations Mick just as those accused are free to seek damages for wrongful accusations. Its a pity though people like Bill Maloney weren’t around when the first allegations were made about the likes of Jimmy Saville or Gary Glitter, maybe their activities would have been brought into the limelight and to a halt a long time ago.

  • BarneyT

    The capacity for various institutions (BBC, Tory party..) to conduct their own internal enquiry should be removed. This should be a matter for the police and prosecution services, providing of course that they are “clean” and have no desire to create a facade.

    An appropriate channel needs to be created to help gather and protect the information relating to the abuse. Childline may have been too little too late for many, but something of this nature is perhaps required, working with the police. Batting this around in the media is an indiscriminate method, akin to mob rule and is clearly error strewn, which in the long run will serve to protect the perpetrators and discredit the abused….which in itself is a continued form of abuse.

    If we want to really get to the bottom of this to bring about real change, we need to fully understand how extensive and sadly acceptable this form of abuse was, and perhaps still is in some quarters. What is it going to take to flush out the truth? An amnesty?

    Whilst that may relieve the guilty, it may service a need for the victims i.e. to be believed firstly and have the crime recognised. Don’t get me wrong, I would like to see people held to account, but the victims need for relief is greater than the public’s need for revenge. A contentious point I know.

  • North Wales child abuse scandal: ‘Don’t forget the real victims’:

    Children’s rights watchdog Mr Towler claimed it had been “all hands to the pumps” this week as people contacted him to report assaults.

    He said: “These people are approaching me because they don’t yet want to go to the police or the authorities.”

    Most just wanted to be listened to.

    He said: “They want to have their voices heard, they want people to understand what happened to them.”

    Mr Towler said the events of the 1970s and 1980s in North Wales were a consequence of children not being listened to.

    BBC bungling may have made things much more difficult for the victims.

  • Desmond Trellace

    “At some stage we need to have a grown up conversation about the sexual abuse of children…”

    I, for one, cannot fathom the extent of sexual abuse of children that has been happening for the last decades. And I am beginning to ask myself whether some kind of acceptance of this evil, deviant behaviour is being subliminally propagated as if it were just another common human weakness like alcoholism. Why do so many people seem to be pussy-footing on this issue? Is the urge to abuse children more prevalent amongst the general population that prevously acknowledged?

    As regards being unjustifiably hounded by the media, my advice is to make sure you stay a million miles away from anything that has to do with the sexual abuse of chldren whether it be active involvement, connivance, belittlement or turning a blind eye and nothing will happen you.

  • Desmond Trellace

    “And I am beginning to ask myself whether some kind of acceptance of this evil, deviant behaviour…”

    While rereading the above, I realized that a non-intended insinuation could be misconstrued from this. I was not referring, subliminally or otherwise, to anything written in this thread.

  • A solemn promise was made by a Minister in the Republic that all of the child abusers would be hunted down and prosecuted, regardless of age. I wonder how that worked out?

  • Desmond Trellace


    what do you think? Was it a genuine problem of legal proof, or do you suspect something more sinister?

  • Desmond,

    I haven’t heard of any prosecutions so….

  • Ruarai

    Child abuse may be painful and too awful to contemplate

    …not least when references to chile rape and torture and their cover-up continue to be described as “abuse”.

    Can we cut that euphemism out once and for all?

  • Crubeen

    Institutional child abuse will continue and will flourish unless or until all of the institutions that care for or have access to children are open, transparent and fully accountable to the parents and public. the current trend is to close off access to other than the “professionals” employed within the sector and to essentially trust to luck that they aren’t doing what they are charged to prevent.

    The old canard that reliance can be put on regulators is just that … an old canard. Anybody minded to sexually abuse children will be devious enough to avoid the attention of the regulator who is not best placed to detect and see through the devious – memories of those “professionals” hoodwinked by the carers of Baby P best prove this proposition.

    It is generally accepted that a majority of those who view child pornography will progress to actual abuse of a child. A recent survey by CEOP of down-loaders of child pornography showed that the largest group was composed of unemployed persons. The second largest group was composed of people who had JOBS in education and care. So much for vetting!

    Saville is replete with stories of professionals who did not do their jobs. What odds any of them will do those jobs now … especially if there’s more than a chance a number of them are actual abusers and not at all interested in preventing further abuse by themselves or others linked to them!?!

  • Desmond Trellace

    I don’t know about the rest of you but this whole issue brings out the (southern) Protestant “whip ’em, flog ’em” side in me.

    Because of the vulnerable nature of the victims involved and their dire suffering, sympathy or understanding of the perpetrators is completely misplaced – in any case, they usually have more than an abundant amount of sympathy for themselves.

    It should simply be a case of the the slammer, and goodbye.

  • Jimmy McGurk

    A Royal Commission into child abuse has just been announced in Australia by the PM Julia Gillard. It is to examine not just the Catholic Church, but all religious denominations as well as NGOs and government bodies.

    Previous to this the number of inquiries or avenues to justice for victims have been piecemeal and uneven.