Jimmy Savile

Well it’s all hit the proverbial fan then. Recent revelations about the late Jimmy Savile and his propensity for praying on young and vulnerable people have led to the police and the BBC carrying out investigations. It’s as if the floodgates have opened and so many people who were previously silenced have found their voices. There had been rumours about Savile for years, but only now, with a recent documentary have the claims been brought to the public’s attention. Funny how so many people and organisations can now wring their hands and stress over why nothing was done sooner.

‘Oh but it was a different time, a different world back then.’ And they all pat themselves on the back reassured that nothing like this could happen nowadays.

Well wake up world, of course it happens nowadays, the recent revelations over Rochdale prove it. There children went forward to report that they were being abused and nothing came of it, it was just all swept under the carpet. On a daily basis children are trying to tell of the abuse they are living with and no one is listening.

When it’s small children it’s dismissed as their imagination or as them misinterpreting someone’s meaning. When its older children it’s seen as lies to get back at someone. When it’s teenagers it’s seen as them trying to get people into trouble. At the same time, when a child or young person is believed, suddenly people swoop in from on high to ‘rescue’ them. They are quizzed, challenged, examined, cross-examined and generally dis-empowered, and then we are surprised when they retract their allegations and say it never happened. Oh dear, we say, that must have been just another child telling lies to drag some poor person’s name into the mud. And we move on to the next child needing saved. In the meantime, the child that retracted is left to try and pick up the pieces of their life.

It’s time we started to change the way we think of children that are experiencing abuse, they don’t all want ‘saved’ or to see the abuser ‘punished’, they want support and understanding and, most of all, they want the abuse to stop. Let’s stop trying to pressure children into telling before they are ready and actually work at supporting them and empowering them to move forwards with their lives. Let’s share information about known abusers so we can limit their access to children, even if we can’t get the evidence to get them put away. Let’s start listening to the children and young people and finding out what they want to happen. Let’s start having a true and honest discussion about the abuse that is experienced by so many of our children.

Maybe then we won’t be here in another 30 years wringing our hands at some awful revelation and saying ‘oh, it could never happen nowadays’.

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Are we too scared to let our children grow?

So, while perusing the blogs I came across this the chaotic mum It’s about the wee girl April Jones that went missing on monday night and the tendency of many people to blame her parents for letting her play outside on her own.

I thought that the blog raised a very serious point, are we stifling the development of our children because we are too scared of the ‘what ifs’? A few years ago I remember watching a TV programme about cotton wool kids, and I distinctly remember an interview with a little girl aged about 5 or 6 who stated that she was too scared to play outside in case a ‘stranger gets her’. I was left wondering what sort of impact that fear would have on her as she got older.

Through our work at Eighteen and Under over the years we have become very aware that children are not really at much risk from strangers, rather they are abused and even murdered at the hand of people they know and even love. Statistically, a person is at most risk of being murdered before they are just one year old, and they are mainly killed by those very people that should be caring for them. So, taking this into account, why are we all so hung up on ‘stranger danger’?

I actually don’t know the definitive answer to this (shock), but I can think of a few possibilities. The first is that it’s a really simple concept, it’s catchy and easy to remember. You can easily teach it to children and they can easily remember it. Another possible reason is that because stranger attacks are so rare, when it does happen the press are all over it. Seeing stories like that in the press can really raise the anxiety levels of parents and make them hyper-aware of the risks that their children may face.

The last reason I’m going to suggest is that in a strange sort of way the ‘stranger’ is a safe baddy. They are the person that’s easy to identify as a risk, that’s easy to keep your kids safe from, that’s easy to hate. Many people can’t even accept the possibility that a loved one would be capable of hurting a child, never mind know how to teach their children to stay safe from the people they love.

In trying to keep their children safe from the baddies, parents are not allowing their kids to play outside in the way that they themselves used to. Instead children are driven to school and after-school activities, they are driven to playdates with the children of their parents friends, if they want to burn off energy and just run around like a wild thing they are taken to giant soft play areas so they are safely contained and supervised. Now I’m not saying that this is wrong but, as was spoken about in the blog above, the question should be asked whether or not parents efforts to protect their children from a perceived threat is preventing their children from developing and growing properly.

And here’s where I open it up to you. Do you think that parent’s fears are justified or do you think we’re creating a generation of cotton wool kids?

We really hope that April is found safe and well.

Posted in 18u, Uncategorized, Violence is Preventable | 2 Comments

Drink N Think event.

Our first foray into involving everyday people in the fight against sexual exploitation went well, on Thursday night we invited guys from across the city to come together for an informal chat about the issue.

The event was a struggle from the word go, there were some debates in the office of the ‘men only’ theme of the night, and getting the guys to attend was a real battle, with most being immediately turned off upon hearing the words ‘sexual exploitation’.

Another reason for difficulty was caused by the decision to run the night as an invite only event, we did this because at any similar events what you tend to have is people that are already working on the issue, making the whole exercise rather pointless, still, despite facing a lot of drop outs on the day we ended up with an even dozen on the night, phew!

And what a great night it was! We wanted to keep things as fun as possible whilst exploring the issue, and going by the feedback we certainly achieved that.

We started out with a ‘guess the product’ game which explored the use of sex in the media to sell products, this led to an interesting (and spontaneous) discussion about whether or not the guys would be happy with men looking at their daughter ‘like that’.

We closed the advert game with a look at Stop the Traffik’s infomercial ‘girls gone wild’ (LINK), which led to a very interesting discussion on wether or not a lap dancer’s ‘happiness’ mattered to the guys, around half said they were not bothered if she was happy or not as she is paid to do a job, the other half of the men challenged them on this and I do feel that some opinions were changed.

We followed this with a higher/lower type card game to share statistics with the guys, then after a well deserved pie break we had a quiz with prizes for the top 3.

All of the men reported that they had learned something about exploitation, all reported that they would be likely to discuss this topic with others, and all reported that they had a good time and would come to a future event (and bring a friend).

Success!

Posted in Izzy's Promise, no-1, Partnerships, Sexual Exploitation, Uncategorized, Violence is Preventable | Leave a comment

What’s the point in a conference?

Something I have been wondering for some time now, is whether or not there is anything to be gained by attending conferences/seminars.

I remember when I first started working in the ‘survivors business’, and attending my first few conferences was eye opening, there was so much knowledge! Everyone had something that worked and were doing a great job with it, everyone was so passionate, these conferences were a great place to learn and meet others and inspire and … well that’s about it, but still! What an awesome thing.

Fast forward about 5 years and I bloody detest conferences.

“What happened!” you may cry, “what tragically changed?” you might well ask.

Nothing, would be the short answer.  Now of course my knowledge increased and I grew wiser, I also lost my fear (more or less) of talking at such events when surrounded by oh so clever experts ready to beat me down with statistics, but all of these changes were in me, the conferences had stayed the same.

And that, right there, is part of the problem as I see it, why bother going? All you get is the same people, talking about the same thing, year in year out.

And no one really is willing to listen, it seems that everyone there is there only to put their point across and bemoan the lack of funding for their particular agency which is of course the most relevant and effective agency around bla bla bla etc.

And what’s with the note takers? You know who you are; the people gathered at the back of the room, who furiously takes notes as if transcribing courtroom proceedings, just what on earth are you going to do with those notes??? Read them??? Why?!? You were right there for goodness sakes. And it wasn’t that interesting!!!

Phew.

I continue to attend some conferences, but I tend to keep my mouth shut (what’s the point anyway?) but still I attend, and occasionally I do hear some new gem of wisdom, some little spark, which almost makes the 5 hours of meaningless babble and the £20 travel costs worthwhile.

Almost.

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