No one knows exactly how many children have been sexually exploited in America’s gyms over the past 20 years. But an IndyStar-USA TODAY Network review of hundreds of police files and court cases across the country provides for the first time a measure of just how pervasive the problem is.
At least 368 gymnasts have alleged some form of sexual abuse at the hands of their coaches, gym owners and other adults working in gymnastics. That’s a rate of one every 20 days. And it’s likely an undercount.
IndyStar previously reported that top officials at USA Gymnastics, one of the nation’s most prominent Olympic organizations, failed to alert police to many allegations of sexual abuse that occurred on their watch and stashed complaints in files that have been kept secret. But the problem is far worse. A nine-month investigation found that predatory coaches were allowed to move from gym to gym, undetected by a lax system of oversight, or dangerously passed on by USA Gymnastics-certified gyms.
USA Gymnastics calls itself a leader in child safety. In a statement responding to IndyStar’s questions, it said: “Nothing is more important to USA Gymnastics, the Board of Directors and CEO Steve Penny than protecting athletes, which requires sustained vigilance by everyone — coaches, athletes, parents, administrators and officials. We are saddened when any athlete has been harmed in the course of his or her gymnastics career.”
The organization noted several initiatives aimed at creating a safer environment, including the use of criminal background checks for coaches, the practice of publishing the names of coaches banned from its competitions, and programs that provide educational materials to member gyms.
But IndyStar’s investigation found:
• USA Gymnastics focuses its efforts to stop sexual abuse on educating members instead of setting strict ground rules and enforcing them. It says it can’t take aggressive action because member gyms are independent businesses and because of restrictions in federal law pertaining to Olympic organizations. Both are contentions others dispute.
• Gym owners have a conflict of interest when it comes to reporting abuse. Some fear harm to their business. When confronted with evidence of abuse, many quietly have fired the suspected abusers and failed to warn future employers. Some of those dangerous coaches continued to work with children.
• Some coaches are fired at gym after gym without being tracked or flagged by USA Gymnastics, or losing their membership with the organization. USA Gymnastics often has no idea when a coach is fired by a gym and no systematic way to keep track. Ray Adams was fired or forced to resign from six gyms in four states. Yet some gym owners hired Adams, believing his record was clean.
• Though the vast majority of officials put children’s well-being ahead of business and competition, some officials at every level have not. Coaches suspected of abuse kept their jobs as long as they accepted special monitoring. Others were allowed to finish their season before being fired. In 2009, Doug Boger was named a USA Gymnastics Coach of the Year and was sent to international competition while under investigation for alleged sexual abuse.
• Victims’ stories have been treated with skepticism by USA Gymnastics officials, gym owners, coaches and parents. Former gymnasts Charmaine Carnes and Jennifer Sey said they felt pressured by Penny not to pursue allegations of abuse by prominent coaches Don Peters and Boger. Carnes said she thought Penny tried to keep the claims about Boger quiet for as long as possible to protect the sport’s image and win championships, a characterization that USA Gymnastics disputes.
In its statement to IndyStar, USA Gymnastics said it is constantly striving to improve.
In the wake of IndyStar’s August investigation, USA Gymnastics hired a former prosecutor to evaluate its bylaws and offer advice on how to strengthen its policies. It also established a policy review panel on its board of directors.
“USA Gymnastics is proud of the work it has done to address and guard against child sexual abuse,” the organization said in materials provided to IndyStar.
USA Gymnastics also said it’s playing a central role in developing a U.S. Center for SafeSport to oversee education programs and investigate and adjudicate claims of sexual misconduct for all U.S. Olympic Committee governing bodies.
USA Gymnastics has touted its many successes, including years of expansion and recent domination by Team USA at the Olympics. But administrators in the Indianapolis-based organization have declined numerous interview requests from IndyStar.
Penny, who has been president since 2005, declined to be interviewed for this and other stories. Neither the chairman of USA Gymnastics’ board, Paul Parilla, nor board members responded to interview requests.
During IndyStar’s investigation, USA Gymnastics agreed to one interview with its lawyer and public relations chief. Otherwise, officials have accepted only written questions and responded with often incomplete written replies. Many questions have gone unanswered.
USA Gymnastics and Penny have taken other steps to keep details of abuse cases secret. The organization as well as individual member gyms have entered confidentiality agreements as part of settlements in negligence cases with gymnasts claiming abuse.
And in court, USA Gymnastics has fought the release of documents that would show how Penny and other top officials have dealt with molestation allegations.
IndyStar went to court in Georgia and won a case in August to unseal depositions and sexual misconduct complaint files on 54 coaches. The Georgia Supreme Court confirmed that ruling in October and ordered the documents to be made public. But USA Gymnastics is continuing to fight, delaying the release.
Many who want reforms in Olympic sports said they are frustrated by the lack of meaningful action.
QotD: “it terrifies me that so many young people are being told that violence & hierarchy are necessary for passion & intimacy”
it terrifies me that so many young people are being told that violence & hierarchy are necessary for passion & intimacy, and that “aftercare” will fulfil their need for comfort & security. sex can do that!! sex doesn’t have to terrorize you so that aftercare can comfort you. sexual intimacy can (should) be an enjoyable experience, not The Gauntlet you have to run before cuddling
it’s monstrous to try to convince young girls that
1. sex is something you have to endure in order to be rewarded with comfort & support
2. replicating abuse during sex makes sex better, ““deeper”“, & more romantic
The EVA Center is a survivor led, social justice oriented program whose mission is to empower women who have experienced sexual exploitation, (prostitution, sex trafficking), to find solutions to the issues they face and exit the commercial sex industry. We also work to challenge public perceptions and strongly advocate for specialized, survivor led, strength based programming that increases awareness of the many socio-economic and situational factors contributing to women’s and girls entry into the sex trade.
The EVA Center’s mission is to provide comprehensive exit services for women who are experiencing commercial sexual exploitation, (prostitution/trafficking).
We are committed to ending commercial sexual exploitation by changing women’s lives, addressing the social and economic conditions that enable the sex trade to thrive. We advocate for what is called the Nordic Model, calling for the complete decriminalization of those exploited in prostitution and criminalizing the buying which fuels the demand.
The EVA Center, formerly Kims Project, has almost ten years of direct service experience. Founded in 2006 by Cherie Jimenez, a survivor of the sex trade, this project was created in response to the overwhelming need to assist women in the often complex process of exiting out of commercial sexual exploitation. It started as Kims Project, a project created and implemented by and for women that had direct experience in the sex trade, understanding the importance of peer support. It was created through Finex House, a domestic violence shelter. Since 2006 we have provided comrehensive services and long term support for hundreds of women while simultanously working to create needed emergency and long term housing options, providing awareness-raising campaigns to educate the public about the violence associated with the sex trafficking and the role of the demand in driving this trade. In 2012, we incorporated as The Josephine Butler EVA Center to fullfill the need to create a more sustainable emergency and long term housing program for the number of women wanting out of this harmful industry. The EVA Center, standing for Education, Vision and Advocacy, better represented what we do, acknowledging this program as a center, a compassionate and caring space for women.
After almost ten years we are currently in the process of collaborating with new partners to create a sustainable and needed emergency housing program and increase our staff.
We assist women in creating their own exit plans, providing information and resources to the appropriate services, acknowledging that each woman has her own experiences, needs and cultural beliefs that can vary tremendously. This might include immediate access to safety since many prostituted and trafficked women find themselves caught in relational violence. For many women the Center represents the beginniing of a new kind of connection and sense of community.
We offer financial assistance as well as long term consistent support in accessing health services, safe permanent housing, educational and employment opportunities; recognizing that education is a key component to economic security. The lack of meaningful employment that provides a living wage is a huge obstacle facing young women struggling to support themselves.
We partner with a number of community organizations to help women develop their own educational plans, getting reconnected back into school and work, GED, ESOL, life, job skills, and/or work readiness programs.
The Center is a caring space for women, all services are free and all women are welcome. The door to resources is always open; there is no cut off of support.
We provide court advocacy, support for women arrested on prostitution related charges, working with Boston area district courts. Our goal is to offer women who have been arrested on prostitution related offenses an opportunity to access services in lieu of jail time. We also offer pre-court diversion which enables law enforcement to intervene, breaking the cycle of court involvement, diverting them to community based programs.
The EVA Center provides a free legal clinic to assist women in navigating the court system. This clinic is a unique partnership with the Boston University School of Law and the EVA Center. Clinic students provide a variety of legal services – including direct representation of non citizens eligible for T Visas, as well as a variety of other legal services.
Rhode Island chapter of Amnesty International has broken with Amnesty International and Amnesty International USA, on the issue of sex trafficking
Group 49 of Amnesty International paused in its petitioning on behalf of political prisoners to talk about sex trafficking Sunday.
Group 49, the Rhode Island chapter, has broken with its parent organizations, Amnesty International and Amnesty International USA, on the issue of sex trafficking. The parent organizations in 2015 adopted a policy, in the words of Rhode Island coordinator Marcia Lieberman, “to decriminalize all aspects of prostitution.”
As guest speaker Cherie Jimenez put it at a Group 49 gathering Sunday, “If we want equality between men and women, we have to end this” organized prostitution. Although legalization is a fashionable “neo-liberal” approach, prostitution is “not an empowering experience” for girls and women, she said.
“It’s made me a little crazy and a little angry,” she confided to her audience. “Because it’s been around forever is not a basis for its continuance.” Jimenez said she has never met a sex-trade practitioner who wanted to stick with it.
Jimenez, who is in her 50s and used to be a prostitute herself, is founder and director of the EVA Center in Boston – as in Education, Vision and Advocacy – which offers peer counseling, housing and other support for women seeking to leave the commercial sex industry.
She said women who go into prostitution believe they do not have options because, in the United States, they usually are products of a public social-services system that does not do enough for them.
“We have so many flawed … systems,” she said, such as indifferent group homes that take in children from dysfunctional domestic situations but cannot overcome their behavioral problems.
“Why isn’t this a human rights violation?” she demanded to know.
After digressing to discuss sex trafficking, the 29th annual Write-a-thon resumed in the parish house of the First Unitarian Church on College Hill, with about 35 volunteers sitting at long tables hand-writing letters on behalf of at least 10 selected prisoners of conscience around the world. The letters were deposited in a glass container, to display the writers’ progress.
As usual, participants lit a large candle draped in barbed wire – the symbolic “candle of hope.”
Regarding sex trafficking, Group 49 officer Merritt Meyer, of Bristol, said decriminalization increases trafficking because it increases the market.
“It’s not just a job,” Lieberman protested.
She said various members of the group have communicated their disagreement to the parent organizations.
A second speaker, Providence police Capt. Michael E. Correia, commanding officer of the detective bureau, summarized how his department underwent a pronounced change and now goes after prostitution by treating prostitutes as victims rather than perpetrators of crime.
“The victim isn’t just someone who signs a witness statement,” Correia said, but is someone deserving of help. The police do not handcuff suspected prostitutes and they introduce them to advocates like Jimenez, hoping the suspects will cooperate later in prosecutions of their pimps.
As part of the change, the police dropped the use of the word “john” as a euphemism for a prostitute’s customer.
“They’re not johns,” he declared. “That’s an antiseptic name. They’re sex buyers.”
Correia acknowledged that the revised approach is difficult to justify to higher-ups in the department because resources are often used in cases with no accompanying arrests to “clear” the cases statistically.
A number of former footballers have shown such courage over the past weeks by talking about how they were sexually abused as children by their coaches. But the most courageous of all has to be Andy Woodward. His willingness to waive his right to anonymity gave others in football the strength to go public.
It is seeing those big, tough men gasping for breath, in floods of tears, struggling to make sense of their shame that is most shocking. Paul Stewart, David White, Chris Unsworth, Jason Dunford … and on it goes. It turns out that we’re not just talking about one isolated case, one perpetrator. Far from it. Now we know about the Newcastle coach George Ormond, and what he inflicted on Derek Bell and others. And there will be more to come.
Police have said they are now investigating reported attacks on 350 individuals. The Met alone has received 106 allegations. Soon this number will be in its thousands. This is the way with child sex abuse. Once one person is brave enough to come forward, others do too.
It’s a horrific story, brilliantly reported by the Guardian’s Daniel Taylor and others. But it’s also a story that poses many uncomfortable questions about football, masculinity, sexuality, cultural norms, and abuse in the larger sense.
For the world of sport in general, and football in particular, is one that has long been divorced from regular standards of sexual behaviour. Attitudes within football to sex, and sexuality, have been abusive, and primeval, for as long as I can remember – if not in the devastating way we are hearing about now. And the wealthier football has become, the more toxic its attitudes.
Sex has long been a currency in football, and when sex becomes a currency, abuse is never far behind. Many footballers don’t feel they have to play by the same rules as regular civilians because they are loaded and famous, and money and celebrity buys access. So it became the norm to read about rape allegations when football teams were away holidaying together, or even when it was consensual, to hear about players “spit-roasting” – two players or more having sex with one woman.
Last year Leicester City sacked three players who were filmed taking part in an orgy where racist language was used. While Ched Evans was found not guilty of rape in his retrial this October, even he would admit his behaviour was unsavoury (having sex with a woman he had never spoken to). In March this year, former England player Adam Johnson was jailed for six years for sexual activity with a schoolgirl.
The same distorted values that led Johnson to think his behaviour was acceptable (a fair exchange; my celebrity, posh car and money for her underage body) seems to be shared by the coaches who abused child footballers (another fair exchange; the possibility of sporting success for their underage bodies). And like all abusers they have preyed on the most vulnerable – youngsters who admired them, who had everything to lose by reporting it, and who might well not be believed anyway.
Now it has been revealed that Chelsea tried to hush up the fact that their chief scout Eddie Heath was a paedophile who preyed on Gary Johnson by offering their former player £50,000 hush money. Shocking, undoubtedly. But is their conspiracy of silence that much more morally bankrupt than Sunderland allowing Johnson to continue to play for the club – even though he had, in private, admitted to them that he had kissed the child?
Sexual abuse and sexism is rife throughout football – from players to professional observers of the game to the fans. Richard Keys resigned from his role as presenter at Sky in 2011 after the sacking of Andy Gray for being unwittingly caught on camera making lewd comments and gestures to a co-presenter. Keys himself was caught referring to women as “it” – as in asking pundit Jamie Redknapp, in reference to a former girlfriend, whether he’d “smashed it” – and suggesting Redknapp would be found “hanging out of the back of it”. Vile.
The bone-headed machismo of sport soon descends into abuse on the terraces. Arsène Wenger was labelled “a paedophile” by rival fans because he was urbane and French, back when that was unusual in English football. After Sol Campbell moved from Spurs to Arsenal, Spurs fans sang, “He’s big / He’s black / He takes it up the crack / Sol Campbell, Sol Campbell” and, worse, to the tune of Lord of the Dance, “Sol, Sol, wherever you may be / You’re on the verge of lunacy / And we don’t give a fuck if you’re hanging from a tree / You Judas cunt with HIV.”
Campbell was wrongly rumoured to be gay. And that, of course, is still the great taboo in British football. And British sport in general. Last week, the words of former darts player Eric Bristow, for which he has since apologised, made that abundantly clear when he tweeted: “Might be a looney but if some football coach was touching me when I was a kid as I got older I would have went back and sorted that poof out.”
There is still no bigger insult in football than calling somebody a poof. There is not one “out” gay footballer in the Premier League. It is still a shameful fact that the only top English footballer who came out was Justin Fashanu, in 1990. After that, he never played top-flight football again, and in 1998 he killed himself.
It is to be hoped that the spate of revelations about child sex abuse in football will make everybody in the game sensitive to all forms of sexual abuse within football – from the predatory coaches to the predatory players, to the fans who hurl homophobic slurs at players, to the clubs who pay out money to silence the victims of abuse.
If there is one thing to learn from this scandal it is that sexual abuse is endemic in football (as it is in society). And it must be rooted out in all its forms.
A telephone hotline dedicated to dealing with abuse within football has received more than 1,700 calls since it was set up three weeks ago, a children’s charity has said.
According to the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), which is running the service, more than 900 calls came in the past fortnight – showing a dip on average from the number received in the first week.
Three-quarters of those calls which resulted in a referral to police or another agency came from victims of abuse themselves, the NSPCC said.
“It’s clear that for far too long, hundreds of people who suffered abuse as youngsters in the game have not been able to speak up but it is encouraging that so many are finally finding their voice in a climate today where they know they will be listened to and supported,” said the NSPCC’s chief executive Peter Wanless.
“What’s important now is that those victims get that much-needed support and that perpetrators are identified and brought to justice by police. Anyone can contact our hotline in confidence and we will get them the help they need.”
The hotline, which is being funded by the Football Association, was set up on 23 November as the scandal began to engulf football. It has since been claimed that 98 clubs have been named to the charity.
The NSPCC said it received 50 contacts from members of the public within two hours of opening the hotline and 860 calls in the first week. It added that 94% of its referrals were to the police, though it stressed that the number of calls does not reflect the number of victims, since multiple calls can come from one individual and not all calls result in further action.
The reality of the sexual revolution, as we now know, was often an abuse of power that left women reeling, not quite sure what happened or who was to blame. Confusion and humiliation was far too often the price you paid to be sexually liberated. In the context of the well documented abuse of young women by great directors from Alfred Hitchcock to Stanley Kubrick, we can see why Schneider’s plight was simply ignored, even though it devastated her.
When she spoke about it, nothing happened. Brando and Bertolucci are still considered untouchable artists.
But it can never be forgotten. Bertolucci sought to film the actual – not acted – pain of a 19-year-old woman. He did that. It was called art. It still is. He got away with it. This is truly disgusting. In his world, men act, women merely feel. “I wanted her reaction as a girl, not an actress,” said Bertolucci.
In the 1970s, consent was not a word or a concept I was aware of. But I fully understood violation when I saw it.
Breaking the silence is immensely powerful and it is good medicine. But speaking up is hard. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children has data that suggests one out of three people abused as a child has not disclosed the abuse and that the average victim who does waits nearly eight years to do so. Many of the men coming forward now, encouraged by the testimony of ex-footballer Andy Woodward, had never spoken before of the events when they were children.
In the past couple of years I have read or heard the accounts of more than 700 men and women sexually and emotionally abused as children in boarding schools, state-run and private. They came to me after I wrote in the Observer of the abuse at my own, Ashdown House. The stories are the grimmest reading, but what is heartening is that for so many people the simple act of speaking up is hugely helpful.
It is a rejection of the power of the abusers who bullied them into silence and the first step in sharing the pain with those around them. “After I sent you my story,” goes a typical email, “I showed it to my partner. We talked as we have never been able to before. I can’t say how glad I am – and she is – that I’m no longer alone with my past.”
For those who love the survivors, the moment of disclosure is often the beginning of hope, of rebuilding lives with people who may have seemed beyond help. The collateral damage of childhood abuse is huge and uncounted. Many of the footballers who have come forward talked of relationships broken by the burden of the secrets they had “locked away”, as Chris Unsworth, raped many times by coach Barry Bennell, put it. For many of the survivors I have interviewed, it is not until their own children reached the age at which they were abused that they confronted their past. For others, that moment came with crises, such as the collapse of a relationship and the urgent need to get explanations as to why life and love had been so difficult.
The abused children of boarding schools and football academies have much in common. It is not just that they all lived in stiff-upper-lip cultures that scorned weakness and overvalued loyalty. These children all carried a potential curse when they left home – the burden of adult hopes and expectations. Many of the footballers who have come forward speak of how impossible it was to tell of what Bennell was doing to them for fear of disappointing their parents.
Steve Walters told how his father, now dead, had changed his life, moved and got a job with Crewe Alexandra football club, to be near his son. Many boarding school children had parents tell them how they’d scrimped and saved for this amazing start to their life. How could these lucky children confess that the great plan had all gone so horribly, shamefully wrong? What if it was their own fault? One of the common side-effects of abuse is the destruction of a child’s sense of self-worth.
The abusers – and more are certain to emerge in football – are also horribly familiar to a researcher into the darker corners of the boarding schools. Contrary to popular belief, child abusers are rarely violent, opportunistic psychopaths. They would be caught if they were. According to criminologists, far more prevalent are the calculating groomers, men and occasionally women for whom the game of snaring a child seems as much a part of their motivation as any sex act. They are rarely violent. What they seek is situations where, however improbably, they can believe hey have their victim’s consent. That is not just a sexual need: a child who thinks it is complicit is a child less likely to tell.
We lack an epidemiology of child sexual abuse, of any indication of whether it is really increasing or decreasing, whether it is worse in some cultures or in others. What we do know is that 90% of sexual abuse is in the family circle, which is perhaps why abuse in institutions is so under-examined. Better understanding might save more children.
Many of the teachers I’ve come across in research for my book were, just like Barry Bennell, adept seducers of parents and bosses too. I’ve heard the confession of a convicted former Catholic priest who explained that when he chose children to target, he started by working out which families would be most open to his entry in their lives: “I’d usually choose a poor single mother who wasn’t really coping,” he said. Men like this would make themselves indispensable to the institution in which they operated – Bennell was a “brilliant coach, an inspiration”, just as the teachers and priests who abused were often the most charismatic and effective.
So, when managers or headteachers are faced with incredible allegations from children against vital members of staff, the easy way forward is all too compelling. It’s far simpler to tell a child off for having a nasty mind, as happened to me at school, than it is to call in the police. Cover-up is a British institutional tradition, and the background noise of historical sex abuse scandal is of brushes working busily under the carpet. Yet the decision to cover up entails something absolutely devastating to the child – the abuse of not being believed. That is shattering. The destruction of faith in adult justice is a trauma that will be carried for ever; the anger may lead to rejection of all adult values, the loneliness and shame of being pronounced a liar leads to substance abuse, self-harm and suicide attempts.
One of the worst things about each child sex abuse scandal that emerges is what first seems to be unthinkable often turns out to be exactly what happened. Police and social workers did cover up what was happening in the children’s homes of North Wales. NHS officials were aware of what Jimmy Savile was up to in the hospitals – and they did tell junior staff to keep quiet. Senior BBC managers did the same. Schools have hushed up complaints, bullying parents to keep quiet and, instead of calling the police, allowed dangerous paedophiles to leave with a reference. It looks now as though the powerful in football who might have rescued children instead did the usual. Two victims have said that senior players and management at their clubs knew what was going on. Chelsea has admitted paying off a victim of its chief scout in the 1970s, on the condition of silence. There’s no doubt at all that more such cases will emerge.
The answer is that proper protection is also enabling children to speak, teaching them that it is their right to do so. When they do speak, they must be heard. Another report for the NSPCC looked at the cases of 208 “disclosures” made by children and found that only 58% were acted upon. That is why there is now an all-party campaign for it to be mandatory for an accusation in an institution to be reported to a third party, as is the case in most countries.
Woman on the Edge of Time was first published 40 years ago and begun three-and-a-half years before that.The early 1970s were a time of great political ferment and optimism among those of us who longed for change, for a more just and egalitarian society with more opportunities for all the people, not just some of them. Since then, inequality has greatly increased.
At the time I wrote this novel, women were making huge gains in control of their bodies and their lives. Not only has that momentum been lost, but many of the rights we worked so hard to secure are being taken from us by Congress and state legislatures every year.
But we must also understand that the attempt to take away a woman’s control over her body is part of a larger attempt to take away any real control from most of the population. Now, corporations and the very wealthy 1% control elections. Now, the media are propaganda machines and the only investigative reporting is on Comedy Central, HBO, or the web.
The powers that be have allowed for certain social rather than economic gains. We’ll soon finally have legalised marijuana and gay marriage in every state – but unions are being crushed and the safety net of the New Deal and the Johnson era is being abolished one law at a time, while women are forced into the back-alley abortions that once killed so many. We have made some social gains and many economic losses. The real earning power of working people diminishes every year.
During the heyday of the second wave of the women’s movement, a number of utopias were created (Joanna Russ’s The Female Man, James Tiptree’s Houston, Houston Do You Read?, Ursula K Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, Elisabeth Mann Borgese’s My Own Utopia from The Ascent of Woman, and Sally Miller Gearhart’s The Wanderground among them) and now they aren’t. Why? Feminist utopias were created out of a hunger for what we didn’t have, at a time when change felt not only possible but probable. Utopias came from the desire to imagine a better society when we dared to do so. When our political energy goes into defending rights, and projects we won and created are now under attack, there is far less energy for imagining fully drawn future societies we might wish to live in.
Writing about a strong community that socialises children and integrates old people is a response to women living in a society where a mother is often alone with her children and old women are treated just a step better than the excess pets executed daily in pounds and shelters.
We are ever more isolated from truly intimate contact with one another. Many men prefer pornography to actual sex, where they have to please a woman or must at least pretend to try.
I also wanted Woman on the Edge of Time to show an ecologically sound society. The lives and institutions and rituals of Mattapoisett all stress being a part of nature and responsible for the natural world. In imagining the good society, I borrowed from all the progressive movements of that time. Like most women’s utopias, the novel is profoundly anarchist and aimed at integrating people back into the natural world and eliminating power relationships. The nuclear family is rare in feminist utopias and banished from this novel.
I projected a society in which sex was available, accepted and non-hierarchical – and totally divorced from income, social status, power. No trophy wives, no closeting, no punishment or ostracism for preferring one kind of lover to another. No need to sell sex or buy it. No being stuck like my own mother in a loveless marriage to support yourself. In the dystopia in Woman on the Edge of Time, women are commodified, genetically modified and powerless.
I am also very interested in the socialising and interpersonal mechanisms of a society. How is conflict dealt with? Again, who gets to decide, and upon whose head and back are those decisions visited? How does that society deal with loneliness and alienation? How does it deal with getting born, growing up and learning, having sex, making babies, becoming sick and healing, dying and being disposed of? How do we deal with collective memories – our history – that we are constantly reshaping?
Utopia is born of the hunger for something better, but it relies on hope as the engine for imagining such a future. I wanted to take what I considered the most fruitful ideas of the various movements for social change and make them vivid and concrete – that was the real genesis of Woman on the Edge of Time.
Marge Piercy, from her introduction to the new edition of Women on the Edge of Time (longer version here)
Referrals from calls to a dedicated football abuse hotline more than tripled the amount made in the first three days of the Jimmy Savile scandal, the NSPCC has revealed.
Launched on 23 November to support the victims of child sex abuse within football, the charity said more than 860 calls had been made to the helpline in its first week.
The NSPCC chief executive, Peter Wanless, said there had been a “staggering surge” in the amount of people getting in touch.
He said: “The number of high-profile footballers bravely speaking out about their ordeal has rightly caught the attention of the entire country.
“We have had a staggering surge in calls to our football hotline, which reveals the worrying extent of abuse that had been going on within the sport.”
The helpline was set up with the support and funding of the Football Association. Within two hours of the opening of the helpline, the charity said it had been contacted 50 times by members of the public. Within the first three days, it had made 60 referrals to the police or children’s services.
The charity made 17 such referrals in the same timeframe following the opening of its Savile helpline in 2012.
Mr Wanless said anyone who wishes to contact the helpline “can do so in confidence, with the knowledge they will be listened to and supported”.
“In future, footballers – both young players and former athletes – must have the confidence to open up about sexual abuse and feel able to come forward,” he said.
The NSPCC’s football abuse helpline can be called 24 hours a day on 0800 023 2642.