Mirror confirms what many of us have thought for years: kids are abused whether they go through the care system or not
A study conducted for Barnardos and Comic Relief (and featured in this morning’s Mirror) makes for sobering if not altogether shocking reading. It shows that on top of the more than 10,000 care home kids who go AWOL every year, nearly eight times as many run away from home. In the latter case, sexual abuse and/or exploitation lies behind the flight: and if it doesn’t, paedophiles and paedo-pimps are ever-ready predators keen to drive them into prostitution either here or abroad. Street kids are easy prey for such people.
77,000 kids run away each year. One – ‘Lily’ – told the tabloid she felt forced to have sex with older men as a way of avoiding difficult situations.
“If kids are on the street, if they run away or their parents kick them out, there are men out there who will take advantage of them,” she said. “If you’ve got nowhere else to go, you’ll have sex with them. It’s better than sleeping out and getting raped by someone you don’t know who could do anything to you.”
Well now, isn’t that a cheery picture of Cruel Britannia in 2013?
Two important facts need to be faced here. First, the breakdown of Britain’s family model is now one of crisis proportions. Over the last 36 hours (surrounding the Benefit Cap debate) there has been much talk of ‘welfare scroungers’. Here at The Slog yesterday I repeated the stat nobody likes to read: that 1 in 5 UK adults of working age do nothing. But the primary reason for this is they’re unemployable in a society that has, through cost-cutting and mechanisation, more or less eradicated jobs for the thick. The grandchildren of all those roadsweepers, navvies, scullery maids, park-keepers, and council labourers from seventy or more years ago are now on Britain’s sofas….many of them bringing up kids with no partner around, and a good proportion of whom have drug and alcohol problems. Those kids enter a lifestyle where having a job is abnormal, knowing your father is rare, and no day has any proper structure beyond casual crime. Some will go into care, and be abused there.
Labour’s problem is that, having spent fifteen years denying the size of the problem, people like Keith Vaz look somewhat opportunist when they bleat about it now to the media. Many of Labour’s ‘strategies’ for dealing with it were classically Blairite – ie, box-ticking fantasies. The Conservatives’ answer to the issue of welfare dependency is the stick and carrot of help and welfare cuts…naturally farmed out to privatised bucket-shops who have but one aim: names on dockets and ticks on targets. It is no more the answer than two decades of pretending that “nothing’s changed”.
Second – although it should not be allowed to distract attention from care system abuse – paedophile abuse within the family is far more widespread than most will admit; and it has nothing to do with social class or intelligence – it can occur as easily in Cheltenham as it can in Bury. The largest single problem of its detection is mothers/wives turning a blind eye to it. I have now spent a depressing seven years, on and off, delving into paedophile case histories and cover-ups all over Britain. I’d say that 1 in 4 of the victims/activists I’ve met or worked with were themselves abused at home as a child.
The authorities cannot use lack of data as the excuse for action: there are endless studies both here and in the US confirming the size of the syndrome. James E Soukup’s American work showed 27% of all women interviewed and 16% of the males reported having been sexually abused as children. UK police experts estimate that roughly 80% of all domestic sexual abuse is not reported. Girls are the more vulnerable in this case – and the chances double if a stepfather comes into the picture. Boys tend to be abused beyond the home (at school) and in care.
60% of US offenders are known to the child but are not family members; 30% are – most often, fathers.
In Britain, the NSPCC’s work shows that over 90% of children who experienced sexual abuse, were abused by someone they knew, and four out of five children (82.7%) who experienced contact sexual abuse from a peer did not tell anyone else about it.
Once again, the inhibition, secrecy and blind eyes play into the abuser’s hands. We should recognise, I think, that ‘the streets’ are just another place where opportunistic paedophiles can hide. The others – religious orders, the teaching profession, care home systems, social work, politics, fatherhood, and the police – all offer the same deadly mix of (a) the sort of respect/authority that the paedophile craves in order to dominate and bully, and (b) provide the excuse for regular access to confused or vulnerable children.
My problem with Labour is that their local politics and minority cultural contacts compromise any likelihood that they will tackle the problem. My problem with the Tories is that very, very few of them understand anything about life at the bottom of the heap – and their response to almost every social problem is one of administration rather than skilled help and care. I’m afraid politicians like an easy life and vote-winning projects. Talk to Labour councillors in Rotherham about taxi drivers there, and they’ll burble a lot about nothing. Talk to Tory MPs about re-offending rates after a prison sentence, and they will call for longer sentences. Some of them just don’t GAF, and most of them have neither to training nor IQ to get it in the first place. I repeat: not a single MP in the Commons has a degree in social anthropology. They should all have one.
For myself, I confess to coming round to the view that help for victims through more open discussion is the only way forward. Paedophilia is an inescapable reality within the male gender of our species: we are never going to eradicate it. What we can do is first, acknowledge the issue’s existence, and second, screen potentially abusive professions more rigorously – using skilled practitioners, not braindead G4S lags.