Legislation which criminalises the purchaser of sexual services rather than the seller has been passed in the Dáil by 94 votes to six.
There were three abstentions.
The Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill also strengthens laws to combat child pornography and prevent the sexual grooming of children. And it amends provisions on incest and indecent exposure.
[…] Provisions in the Bill also include prohibition of the wearing of wigs and gowns in proceedings involving children and the prohibition on the cross-examination of victims of sexual offences by an accused, which will apply once the Bill is commenced.
Today a historic precedent was set when the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill, which includes laws to criminalise the purchase of sex and ensure vulnerable women, children and men in prostitution can access support, passed its final hurdle in Seanad Éireann and will now be part of the Irish Statute Book.
The 70+ partners of Turn Off the Red Light, which have been tirelessly campaigning in support of this crucial legislation are united in their welcome for
the new legislation, which will better protect vulnerable women, children and men who are being sexually exploited.
Denise Charlton, Chair of Turn Off the Red Light,said: “From the very beginning this Bill has been about protecting and supporting those most vulnerable to sexual exploitation, violence and abuse. It focuses on the perpetrators of sexual crime
– the pimps and traffickers who enable abuse and exploitation to continue, and who benefit from it financially.
“We commend the Tánaiste, Minister Frances Fitzgerald, for championing this Bill as it progressed through the Oireachtas. By supporting it, the Irish Government is making a clear statement that it will stand up for the most vulnerable in our society.
“The inclusion of a review period in this legislation affirms the Government’s commitment to making sure the legislation has a real impact for those it seeks to support. We look forward to working with the Government in the coming months to ensure this happens.”
The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD this evening welcomed the passage of the Criminal Law (Sexual Offences) Bill 2015 through both Houses of the Oireachtas.
Speaking this evening the Tánaiste said –
‘This is one of the most comprehensive and wide ranging piece of sexual offences legislation ever to be introduced and has been a priority for me as Minister for Justice and Equality. It is an essential piece of legislation that brings additional protections to some of the most vulnerable people in our community. It contains the right laws for these times, laws that will protect victims of the most vicious and depraved crimes.
The provisions of this Bill enhance and update laws to combat the sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children. It widens the range of offences associated with child pornography to ensure that no one who participates in any way in the creation, distribution, viewing or sharing of such abhorrent material can escape the law.
Also, the Bill provides greater clarity in relation to the definition of sexual consent for the first time.’
The Bill contains:
· New criminal offences to protect children against grooming;
· New measures to protect children from online predators;
· New and strengthened offences to tackle child pornography;
· New provisions to be introduced regarding evidence by victims, particularly children;
· New offences addressing public indecency;
· A provision in relation to harassment Orders to protect victims of convicted sex offenders;
· Provisions maintaining the age of consent to sexual activity at 17 years of age and for a new “proximity of age” defence;
· A provision to criminalise the purchase of sexual services.
· A statutory statement of the law as regards consent to sexual acts
Concluding, the Tánaiste said, ‘I would like to acknowledge the support and invaluable contributions from my parliamentary colleagues and from civic society, in particular from those people and organisations who made submissions and representations to me and my Department.’
This Bill brings Irish law into line with a number of international legal instruments and implements the recommendations of a number of Oireachtas committees.
SPACE International is delighted to join its voice with the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Ruhama, Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, Children’s Rights Alliance, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Men’s Development Network, Irish Nurses and Midwives Association and all of the other organisations that make up the seventy-two members of the Turn Off the Red Light campaign, in welcoming the passing of the Sexual Offences Bill in the Republic of Ireland.
SPACE International’s Irish members, both publicly known and anonymous, have worked extraordinarily hard alongside many others to campaign for the passing of this Bill since 2011, and it is with great joy that we can finally welcome the criminalisation of the demand for paid sexual access to human beings.
We are relieved and gladdened that the Irish government has finally fully recognised the abusive reality of prostitution and committed to criminalise those who exploit others for their own sexual gratification. This is an important and historical moment for Ireland. We have, for the first time since the foundation of the state, recognised the legal rights of prostituted persons to live free of sexual exploitation.
SPACE recognises the highly gendered nature of the sex trade and welcomes the societal change that this legislation will bring about, in particular its positive effect on the goal of gender equality, and is committed to continuing the conversation with regard to social supports for prostituted persons so that they may exit prostitution if they so wish with the full support of the State.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Child trafficking victims and unaccompanied children are going missing from local authority care at an “alarming” rate according to a new report, which reveals that in one year, nearly 30% of all UK child trafficking victims and 13% of unaccompanied children disappeared from care services.
New research by child trafficking NGO Ecpat UK and the charity Missing People has found that 167 of the 590 children suspected or identified as child trafficking victims in the year from September 2014 to 2015 vanished from foster and care homes across the country.
An additional 593 of the 4,744 unaccompanied children placed under the protection of local authorities also went missing at least once in the same time period. Of the 760 trafficked or unaccompanied children who disappeared from care, 207 have never been found.
The new data, drawn largely from freedom of information requests to 217 local authorities across the UK, shows that Thurrock, Hillingdon, Croydon, Kent County Council and Surrey had the highest numbers of trafficked and unaccompanied children who were unaccounted for. One local authority reported that 22 child trafficking victims had gone missing in the recorded time period.
The majority of child trafficking victims who vanished from care are from Vietnam, Albania and the UK. Most of the unaccompanied children who went missing are from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Albania and Vietnam.
Despite the high numbers, Ecpat says that the real scale of the UK’s missing child trafficking victims is still not accurately reflected in the data.
Chloe Setter, Ecpat UK’s head of advocacy and policy, said there was “huge concern” that only 45 of the 217 local authorities asked for information were able or willing to provide data on the numbers of children whose whereabouts were still unknown.
“I think what is most alarming about this survey isn’t the data we’ve received, it is the data that we haven’t,” said Setter.
“Twenty per cent of the local authorities we contacted could not even report how many children in their care were [formally] identified or suspected of being trafficked. Only 10 local authorities could report the nationalities of the trafficked children who had disappeared. It is unacceptable that we can’t get a clear picture on how many exploited children are simply falling off the radar and, in the case of trafficked children, presumed to be back in the hands of their exploiters. These are hundreds of children who have simply vanished from places where they should have been protected.”
The report also underscores issues with identification and recording practices. Despite London being a prime destination for human traffickers, 10 of 33 local authorities reported zero trafficked children, and an additional four local authorities were unable to provide any information.
“There has to be an improved data recording system put in place for trafficked and missing children,” said Setter. “Many of the authorities we asked couldn’t even search for these children in their existing databases.”
The report cites various reasons for the children going missing, from the failure of the government to identify trafficked children, to the influence and control of traffickers, lack of trust in adults and lack of consistent support. Poor protection measures, as well as asylum and immigration concerns, were also noted.
Ecpat and Missing Children say that in order to stem the flow of exploited children disappearing from care services, the child protection system must be expanded to introduce specific training on child trafficking and unaccompanied children and investment in appropriate accommodation and support services.
Lynne Chitty, UK care director at the anti-trafficking charity Love146, said she was not surprised by the findings of the report and expected the numbers to continue to rise if urgent safeguarding policies were not implemented immediately.
“Every week we see children going missing, most within 24 hours of arriving in care, and we know child trafficking victims are largely going back to their traffickers,” she said. “Many are in debt bondage or have been given a number to call as soon as they get taken into care. They aren’t getting the protection, services or support they need to stop them from believing that their traffickers are the only option for them here.”
A spokesperson for the Department for Education said: “It is vital that children in care are protected from harm. We have already strengthened regulations on children’s homes, and local authorities have a duty to tell us about all incidents of young people going missing.
“But we know trafficked and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are especially vulnerable. That’s why we have commissioned specialist training for those caring for them, committed to an independent advocate in each area to help champion their rights and outlined clear plans for a new government strategy to look at their particular needs, including reviewing the accommodation available.”
QotD: “I have to ask you to resist, not to comply, to destroy the power men have over women, to refuse to accept it, to abhor it and to do whatever is necessary despite its cost to you to change it”
We need to put women first. We need to do anything that will interrupt the colonizing of the female body. We need to refuse to accept the givens. We need to ask ourselves what political rights we need as women. What laws do we need? What would freedom be for us? What principles are necessary for our well-being? Why are women being sold on street corners and tortured in their homes, in societies that claim to be based on freedom and justice? What actions must be taken? What will it cost us and why are we too afraid to pay and are the women who have gotten a little from the women’s movement afraid that resistance or rebellion or even political inquiry will cost them the little they have gotten? Why are we still making deals with men one by one instead of collectively demanding what we need? I am going to ask you to remember that as long as a woman is being bought and sold anywhere in the world, you are not free, nor are you safe. You too have a number; some day your turn will come. I’m going to ask you to remember the prostituted, the homeless, the battered, the raped, the tortured, the murdered, the raped-then-murdered, the murdered-then-raped; and I am going to ask you to remember the photographed, the ones that any or all of the above happened to and it was photographed and now the photographs are for sale in our free countries. I want you to think about those who have been hurt for the fun, the entertainment, the so-called speech of others; those who have been hurt for profit, for the financial benefit of pimps and entrepreneurs. I want you to remember the perpetrator and I am going to ask you to remember the victims: not just tonight but tomorrow and the next day. I want you to find a way to include them – the perpetrators and the victims – in what you do, how you think, how you act, what you care about, what your life means to you.
Now, I know, in this room, some of you are the women I have been talking about. I know that. People around you may not. I am going to ask you to use every single thing you can remember about what was done to you – how it was done, where, by whom, when, and, if you know, why – to begin to tear male dominance to pieces, to pull it apart, to vandalize it, to destabilize it, to mess it up, to get in its way, to fuck it up. I have to ask you to resist, not to comply, to destroy the power men have over women, to refuse to accept it, to abhor it and to do whatever is necessary despite its cost to you to change it.
Plans to compel professionals to report their concerns that children are being abused have been rejected by the UK’s leading child protection charity, provoking fury from a victim support group.
A proposal to introduce “mandatory reporting”, which is observed in many other countries, has exposed a schism among groups representing doctors, nurses, police and social workers, with some expressing fears that they would struggle to cope with the increase in abuse investigations that it would generate.
The government’s consultation on reporting and acting on child abuse and neglect was launched amid concerns about past abuse in some of the country’s major institutions. High-profile inquiries, such as that into the paedophile Jimmy Savile, revealed how many people suspected abuse but failed to report their fears.
Under the new proposal teachers, doctors and other employees in regulated professions who work with children would be legally obliged to report suspicions that a child was being abused.
However, the plan has been rejected by the NSPCC. It warns that victims might be deterred from opening up to adults if they know what they say will automatically trigger an investigation. The charity gives the hypothetical example of a teacher who is worried about a child because he or she is turning up to school hungry or unkempt, a sign that the child is at risk of neglect.
According to the NSPCC, under mandatory reporting teachers would be bound to raise their concerns with the local authority immediately. This would trigger a child protection investigation, one that might be unnecessary if the teachers had been able to use their professional judgment and talk to the children and their parents to establish what was happening.
The NSPCC is in favour of mandatory reporting for “closed institutions” such as hospitals and boarding schools, on the grounds that they have smaller networks of adults for children to confide in and are likely to place greater pressure on their employees to protect their reputation. But for other institutions the NSPCC backs a proposal for a duty to act, which would allow professionals not to automatically report their concerns but to consider “appropriate” action that they believe to be in the best interests of the child. In all cases, however, the decision would be recorded and the professionals would be held accountable for their actions.
“We think that this may make it more likely that children are given the support they need according to their circumstances and it leaves professionals with some discretion to decide what action is appropriate,” the NSPCC says in a briefing that accompanies its submission to the consultation.
The issue is becoming deeply divisive. Submissions to the consultation reveal that the children’s commissioner is against mandatory reporting, as is the National Police Chiefs Council, the British Association of Social Workers and the Royal College of Nursing. But both the National Association of Head Teachers union and the British Medical Association say they are broadly in favour.
Tom Perry, founder of Mandate Now, a victim support group that campaigns for a change in the law, branded the duty to act option, favoured by the government, “unworkable”.
“It suggests a legal duty should exist at all points in the child protection system to act in an ‘appropriate’ manner,” Perry said. “It doesn’t define what it means by ‘appropriate’ and acknowledges it will vary from case to case. The government then suggests most cases would be addressed by disciplinary rather than criminal sanctions, meaning there would be no change since disciplinary sanctions already exist and don’t work.”
Perry said mandatory reporting had been shown to work in other countries. “People faced with having to report suspicions of abuse naturally ask themselves, ‘What if I’m wrong?’ Gaze aversion is a significant challenge. The culture of child protection has to change and mandatory reporting in institutional settings will help make that happen. It has in the majority of countries on all four continents which have some form of the law.”
When Sageer Hussain and seven other men from Rotherham were sentenced to prison, the woman they had raped and sexually abused as a teenager was determined to be in the public gallery.
Emma Jackson (not her real name) had given evidence behind a screen over three painful days in the witness box at Sheffield crown court. But on Friday she was ready to face her abusers when the judge jailed them.
“I want to see their eyes when they get their sentences,” said Jackson, who was branded a “white slag” by her abusers, seven of whom are of British Pakistani origin. “I’ve been living with what they did to me for the last 13 years. Now they will know what it’s like to suffer.”
Jackson is now 27 and the mother of a young son. She was 13 and 14 when Hussain used drugs and alcohol to groom her for sex. He raped her behind a branch of Boots in Rotherham and at other locations around the South Yorkshire town, before passing her on to one of his brothers, Basharat, two of his cousins and various friends.
She reported her abusers at the time, having saved all the clothes she was raped in as evidence. The police lost them. Social workers closed her file because she came from a supportive family in a middle-class area. She once claimed a detective told her: “We just think it is little white slappers running around with Asians.” At school other pupils branded her a “Paki shagger”.
Jackson thinks the ethnicity of her abusers is relevant. “I know that there are Asian girls who have been exploited,” she said, “but I never saw my abusers with any Pakistani girls. It was always white girls. There is a pattern there that you can’t ignore and it is something we need to tackle.”
Jackson’s parents begged for help from their local MP, Kevin Barron; the then home secretary, David Blunkett; and the children’s commissioner, the court was told. But her abusers continued to swagger around Rotherham, threatening her family with violence, to the point that the Jacksons briefly moved abroad to try to start a new life.
The unanimous guilty verdicts delivered last month came as a tremendous relief, but also brought frustration. “I just couldn’t quite believe it. I felt vindicated. Yet when the verdicts came in, it proved to me that justice could have been done 13 years ago. That could have saved me a lot of heartache.”
Now a campaigner against child sexual exploitation, Jackson wants an official apology from South Yorkshire police. Though she praises the officers who brought her case to court, she would like a letter acknowledging that the force failed her as a teenager. “It would mean a lot to me to receive an official apology,” she said.
Six years before the court case, Jackson wrote a book, Exploited, about her experiences, and had given evidence to the home affairs select committee. When the prominent social worker Alexis Jay published her report on sexual exploitation in Rotherham, saying at least 1,400 children had been abused in the town over a 16-year period, Jackson went public to say she was one of them.
But nothing could quite prepare her for the ordeal of giving evidence. Walking into court on the first day, she couldn’t see Hussain but immediately caught a whiff of his aftershave from behind the screen. Now 30, he was wearing the same brand as he had in his teenage years. “His smell was a big thing for me. It made me feel a bit sick,” she said.
Jackson was infuriated at her cross-examination in the witness box. “The barristers just dragged everything up. It was a load of old crap. I was warned in advance that it wasn’t personal and the barristers were just doing their jobs, but it felt personal. It was quite maddening.
“It’s not a nice experience because they literally rip you to pieces. They try to trip you up; it’s as though they try and manipulate your words. To me it seems that it’s the victim who is the one who is put through the mill. That makes me quite angry.”
With her abusers now in jail for the foreseeable future, Jackson plans to move on with her life. She is catching up on the education she missed out on as a teenager and plans to go to university next year to study social work. But she will never be able to forget what happened to her.
“They took my education – that has set me back. It’s affected my relationships because I can’t fully trust people. I have mental health issues and suffer a lot from depression. But it’s not just my mental health that has been affected: my immune system is weak too. I pick up bugs really easily and have had glandular fever and shingles. It’s affected my life massively.”