current affairs

Sexual abuse scandal – should we be doing more for the victims?

If you have been alive during the last year, you may have noticed that ever since Jimmy Savile was ousted as paedophile it has become the flavour of the month to

If you have been alive during the last year, you may have noticed that ever since Jimmy Savile was ousted as paedophile it has become the flavour of the month to be increasingly outraged when an accusation of sexual abuse is made. Joining Savile on the list of ‘human beings I never thought would do a bad thing’ is Lostprophets frontman Ian Watkins and Rolf Harris.

These are a few men who have done horrendous, horrible things but the concerning aspect is that, we know their names. A statistic has been floating around on twitter that says if each sexual crime was reported, the prison system couldn’t cope with at least 88,000 offenders who would need to be locked up.

Operation Yewtree is supposed to be getting justice for survivors and with a string of prosecutions under its belt, there has been some success. However the reaction to the prosecutions has shown the ugly side of the public. Vanessa Feltz recently disclosed her experience of assault and the reaction she received from the social media shows that realistically, people are still being blamed for experiencing and enduring abuse.

The onus is constantly on survivors to explain why they did not come forward before yet the answer is self-evident. The main complainant in the Rolf Harris case was best friends with his daughter Bindi, and even she did not believe there to be truth behind the allegations. The five year sentence given to Harris was referred for being too lenient, yet public reaction has been harsh.

His life work has been devalued and destroyed and considering what he has been accused and convicted of, is this really an appropriate reaction? He has been convicted in a confused way. Imagine the scene: a man has his home burgled. He phones the police, they come round to investigate. Instead of preserving the crime scene and immediately investigating, the police take a different tact.

He is interrogated – what he did do to invite the criminal into his home? Don’t you think your front door is a bit too inviting? There’s a welcome mat and everything! Did his house ask for it by being too obviously made of bricks and mortar?

A different story in the media

This is an exaggerated example but this is the equivalent of what people face (regardless of gender) when reporting sexual crimes. People are forced to brutally relive their crimes in courts, and then have their characters torn apart – they are used to save their abusers from a fate usually deserved. The negative attitude towards victims and survivors is evidenced in the social media backlash, rape culture and more.

How can anyone be convinced that they will be taken seriously, or that they will see justice? Whilst Operation Yewtree is doing good work, the media coverage sends the message out that unless your attacker is famous with a couple of MBE’s under their belt, no-one cares. Coverage of victim impact is minimal, at best. 

The danger of this high profile coverage is that it becomes the equivalent of a Daily Mail cancer story, everyone has heard it before and people care less and less. The abuse within the church has become so last year, but now that people are listening to stories of this nature journalists are re-hashing previous common knowledge for the shock factor. 

The latest re-invention of the church abuse involved Jehovah’s Witnesses, a new church altogether. The government has only begun to care now that the credible evidence of sexual abuse in Parliament has reached the attention of the general public on the back of the media wave. The Paedophile Information Exchange positioned itself alongside the gay rights movement and no-one took them seriously.

A new focus

At this time, no-one questioned or investigated the children or young people that may be at risk just for being with them. No-one cared about the people potentially enduring abuse then, or rather, most people didn’t care. This was airbrushed out of our civil rights lessons, symptomatic of a concentrated ‘sweeping under the rug.’

MP Geoffrey Dickens created a now-missing, infamous dossier listing sex abusers in Whitehall and we are only aware of this due to opportunistic questions raised in Parliament. Radio 4 non-chantly discusses child abuse on the early morning Today programme without so much as a ‘sensitive subject warning,’ and even Radio 1 Newsbeat have a better track record.

People are not concerned about the effects of these revelations on real human beings who have lived through this and worse. The entire scandal seems to be circling around who hid what, who knew what, why x y and z wasn’t done but fails to bring to the forefront the most important point – what happened to the survivors, are they okay, and how can we help.

Image: Gene Hunt, Flickr

What do you think? Have your say in the comments section below.