Tuesday 25 November 2014

The Paedophile Next Door

Are we living at peak paedophile? No, we passed that a few years ago. But we do live in a culture saturated by paedophile panic. You're practically not allowed to have contact with kids unless cleared by the Disclosure and Barring Service. Nary a day goes by without a paedophile somewhere getting banged up. We've had dear old Rolf, ex-cuddly crying man for Animal Hospital jailed. The horrifying crimes of ex-Lost Prophets singer Ian Watkins and the beyond imagining criminal depravity of Jimmy Savile. Added to the mix is the appalling goings-ons in Rotherham and the historic investigation of paedophilia and murder allegedly involving Members of Parliament.

Thankfully, still, child sex crimes remain relatively rare. According to the NSPCC, there were 23,000 child sex offences recorded last year, of which 5,500 were against kids under the age of 11. However, they maintain that abuse is underreported and as many as five per cent of all children have been sexually abused. That's far, far too many children living in fear of (mainly) a parent or relative. Words just do not exist.

As sentences catch up with public revulsion, lengthy jail terms do not appear to be acting as a deterrent. How can we ensure kids are protected from abuse? This is something Channel 4 have asked a self-confessed paedophile this evening in their The Paedophile Next Door.

Headed up by Steve Humphries,the documentary filmmaker who uncovered child sex abuse in the Catholic Church, the programme turned around three stories and expert talking heads. The first belonged to Sarah Forsyth, an abuse survivor who was attacked regularly by her father from the age of three. What made her experience all the more harrowing was that she was sent to a children's home when it all came to light. And there she was abused by a gang of paedophiles who were supposedly her carers. When she was discharged she had the satisfaction of seeing her dad locked up, but subsequently ended up doing sex work in Amsterdam. It was unclear whether the gang were ever brought to justice. However, she is now retraining as a social worker to help keep at-risk kids safe from abuse.

Ian McFadyen has risen to some prominence in the media as one of the leaders of abuse survivors involved in Theresa May's botched enquiry into an establishment cover up. He attended Caldicott prep school where he came to the attention of a group of predatory teachers around the deputy head, George Hill. Again, in a series of graphic descriptions Ian tells of how he was groomed, initially treated with some tenderness and - at the time - felt he had become complicit with the abuse inflicted on him. As it carried on and more teachers became involved, Ian got heavily into drink and drugs, and used to skip to London at weekend to sell himself to other men. Ian, however, was fortunate enough to see his abusers imprisoned - Hill himself committed suicide as the net closed in on him.

The third guest was a man called Eddie. He is 39 and admitted that since his mid-20s he's been sexually attracted to children, sometimes kids as young as four. He was also quick to add that he has never acted on his feelings, has no intention of doing, nor ever wants to. Eddie typifies the "virtuous" paedophile - those who have sexual feelings toward children, but are simultaneously horrified/disgusted by their proclivities. He was also typical in the sense that your average paedophile is a heterosexual man who is also attracted to women. His preferences were "non-exclusive" allowing him and many others to carry on otherwise outwardly normal, law-abiding lives.

Asked why he had decided to come out publicly, he recognised he was leaving himself open to abuse and physical attack. Yet Eddie also thought that responding to him violently merely underlined the status quo, a situation where paedophiles are left to their own devices until they commit an offence and then the weight of justice and public opprobrium falls upon them. What is needed is help before an offence is committed.

Dr Sarah Goode, an expert in paedophiles and child sexual abuse concurred. She argued that paedophiles are moral people just like the rest of us who make moral choices. Instead of going overboard with the demonisation of paedophiles before they've abused a child, society needs to make that appeal and tell them that they can choose to keep children safe. They are not prisoners of their impulses, but this has to be balanced by society's recognition that it needs to make help is available.

Humphries, who began the programme with some scepticism came round to this view as well. The crackdown on the notorious Paedophile Information Exchange, the increased number of reports referred to police after 1986 (the year Childline was set up), the documenting and tracking of abusive images and films, and the opportunist campaign by News of the World to name and shame released paedophiles on the sex offenders register. Not only has this stopped an epidemic of abuse, the latter brainchild of Rebekah Brooks may have contributed to an increase of abuse by driving sex offenders underground and back into their networks, which increases the likelihood of reoffending.

If the old, draconian methods don't work, what can we do to keep kids safe? For retired copper Jon Taylor, a former specialist on child sex abuse cases, we need more online safety at home - parents must supervise the online world of their kids. Survivors like Sarah can also help in the detection of abuse. Yet, what the programme explored is a radical approach. One such initiative is Circles. Here volunteers monitor but also support released paedophiles to prevent them from reoffending. Acting as a friend/social support to these people had a reportedly 70% success rate (i.e. 30% on the programme reoffended). Again, this only engages with paedophiles after a child's life has been blighted. The programme briefly touches on a German initiative that does just this. It combines a residential course combining counselling and treatment, and it turns out that Eddie has enrolled on similar therapy regime. Interestingly, Ian Macfadyn agrees with this approach.

The Paedophile Next Door wasn't an easy watch. It was uncomfortable because the tone it adopted to Eddie was sympathetic, which is something of a cultural first considering only condemnation has hitherto been permissible. Perhaps there is a change in public attitudes though, at least if this hashtag is anything to go by. Nevertheless what Channel 4 have done is inject some much-needed debate into dealing with paedophiles and protecting kids. If we want to stop child sex abuse by any means necessary, it's got to mean just that.


Phil said...

If that argument's right, the callousness and cruelty of the 90s anti-paedo campaign (take a bow, Rebekah "Innocent" Brooks) led to more callousness and cruelty inflicted by paedophiles, not less.

And that shouldn't really surprise us - cruelty breeds cruelty, whatever the cause. Persecuting people isn't short-sighted or mistaken or counter-productive or excessive, it's just evil. As Sydney Carter said, The devil wore a crucifix

Phil said...

Feeling a bit moral this morning!

asquith said...

What I say is that we need more "subversion", and (pace Dan Ware) more "answering back". We need to abolish once and for all the culture in which children are seen and not heard and voices of authority are always deferred to.

In Ireland in the 50s, the clergy could do no wrong. (I suspect some imams might be in a similar place now, and that's before we even get to the fact that child "marriage" is actually viewed as normal normal in too many places and must be abolished worrldwide).

Didn't we know who Jimmy Saville, Cyril Smith and Rolf Harris WERE, and what they would DO to us if we said a word against them? Children, having been battered by their teachers, were then battered at home on the grounds that if they'd been punished they must be guilty.

In Rotherham, what else did you expect from some little slag who has so little self-respect she goes with a paki? (I use these words because you just KNOW that's what senior management at the council said to each other, which is why they didn't bother to investigate properly and is also why the idea that there was some PC conspiracy is even more absurd than it normally is).

Some people don't deserve to be "pillars of society" and their authority thoroughly needs to be "undermined" by transparency.

An accusation must be investigated, the accused might be innocent or guilty but that's for a fair and properly funded and supported legal system to ssettle.

That is my stance on the matter and you have it.

Anonymous said...

We cannot divorce this from the culture, the sexualisation of children from a young age, the belief that all underage sex is abuse. If children are empowered, as asquith demands then would we will listen to them when they say they enjoyed the sex actually? No, we will actually imprison the kids for their own benefit.

We should also be aware of a culture of compensation, that is also bound to skew the figures.

And we should be careful to not make hearsay a fact. I was watching a report on the TV about Rotherham, where someone said that girls who were going into the town centre were being told by men they would be raped as a consequence. Clearly over-hyped bullshit, but the sort that the Tabloids build their entire argument on.

Sex is a taboo, kids can be homeless, drug addicts, begging, riddled with disease and no one really care, just don't you dare have sex! (Rotherham proved this beyond any doubt).

Dave said...

What happened to his human rights? No one in that program gave a damn about the human rights of Ed. We have a copper who's proud to call himself a "paedophile hunter", which to Ed is saying: "you are my prey", but there is no admission of this unjust hunt against him? "I would probably want to kill you", but that's OK, he can say that to a paedophile! You know what puts a real dark light on this? Some paedophiles are also victims to something that happens to them as they enter this world, until they die. "We saw images of children as young as babies being raped" the "child protection expert" said . Really?!! You can go see exactly that on youtube if you look up "infant circumcision", or what it's becoming more widely known as: "genital mutilation" - which is hunky-f**king-dory in this warped hypocritical two-faced sexually ill and morally bankrupt society. Ed should have told them to stuff their "therapy". Society needs help more than Ed: supporting the knife-rape of boys. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1OJZMOGw1I

Gary Elsby said...

Are you part of the problem Phil?
Jimmy a 'criminal' a man accused in life and accused more in death and including shagging dead bodies!
So much for innocent until proven guilty.

The thought that queues of non criminal paedophiles about to enter clinics is quite a fantastical thought and one I fear doomed from the outset, but who knows?
'Dear Mum, I'm a paedo but I haven't touched anyone (honest)'
My belief that is the only letter ever written and ever will be written.
I accept that there are some paedophiles out there who never turn to criminal acts but we see daily of pederasts guilty of past or recent crimes.
Criminals of a serious nature, sex attacks upon unwilling children (pre 16)are worthy of jail and if the rehabilitation within that setting involves therapy, then so be it.
All criminal acts are subject to possible jail and sex attacks on children are subject to jail also.
The view of challenging a would-be pederasts behaviour is laudable but would involve altering a human behaviour going back thousands of years where it was the norm.
I'm sceptical.
The act of doing something rather than nothing is intended to make us feel better about ourselves and perhaps nothing more.

Southpawpunch said...

I don't know why people can't understand the term 'paedophile'.

It is not illegal or wrong to be a paedophile in the same way it was not illegal or wrong to have been a male homosexual before 1967 in the UK.

What was illegal before 1967 was for a man (or boy) to engage in sexual acts with another man.

Even the most rancid reacationaries have not yet made it illegal just to be a paedophile - who can control their sexual preference? - it is sex acts with a child that are banned but everywhere you would think just being a paedophile breaks the law.

I think the age of consent is too high (maybe should be 12, 14?) and the laws against what some paedophiles may do are oppressive e.g. I understand that you can get realistic fake childsex images that are completely photoshopped or whatever i.e. no human models involved, all 'composed' by someone - and possession of this is still treated as the same as possession of real child-sex photos.

I wouldn't now think that my youthful view of 'no age of consent' is correct (most probably) but I still think that paedomania both is an attempt to control the lives of some young people e.g. in relationships with their teachers by adding it in with what is clearly wrong (and can be horrific), but often covered by other laws e.g. rape.

Anonymous said...

I think it is a good thing that this issues is being challenged in a different way. The whole "stranger danger" skew on the issue of child abuse massively misrepresents the majority of abuse committed against children.

But many still refuse that to be true. They still refuse to accept that children are far more likely to be abused in their own home than by professional or a stranger.

I was once told by a parent outside a school that there were 3 known paedophiles living in the area. She was aghast when I told her that was nothing compared to the number of unknown paedophiles picking their children up from school that day!