We heard over the past week of widespread child abuse in football a generation ago. It is utterly horrific.
Yet I am concerned we are treating this still merely as a series of isolated incidents which occurred decades ago. We may note that they affect people who are still living, but our underlying safety mechanism kicks in and says “Different area, different era”.
I hope someone reading can demonstrate what I am about to write is wrong.
Firstly, we are now at the stage where this is not a series of isolated incidents, but rather the norm. Huge numbers of children were abused as a matter of course to the extent they normalised it as part of their upbringing – by TV figures, sports coaches, priests, family members and others. Nor was this confined to the UK and Ireland – for example, a well known TV commentator in Australia was found guilty of child abuse in the 1970s only last week.
Secondly, therefore, the notion of child abusers as “one in a million” weirdos is dangerously wrong. In fact, vast numbers (i.e. a significant percentage) of men are capable of committing child abuse, given the chance. The whole notion to me is so utterly repellent that I cannot begin to comprehend this, but the common theme seems to be a kind of warped and sick power play. The more and more the abuser gets away with it, the more and more he does it. He enjoys the fact he has power over victims to stop them reporting it.
Thirdly, therefore, we know this remains vastly understated. The horrendous reality is that this means it is vastly understated even right now. It is, after all, only decades on that this is being reported. Though we like to kid ourselves otherwise, there is no reason to believe that similar revelations about now will not take place decades from now. Remember, the perpetrators are generally well thought of “pillars of the community” involved in volunteering and charity work.
Finally, I fear therefore that we haven’t even begun to tackle this effectively. It is one thing to introduce “child protection policies” and such like, but this gets to only the tip of the iceberg. It seems to me there is a much deeper and widespread social and perhaps psychological problem here with the terrifying number of men who continue to view other human beings as objects for their own gratification. We surely have to ask some basic questions, like why in a civilised society so many men would even give the slightest thought to carrying out such ghastly acts?
The whole issue is so repulsive to the rest of us that the easiest thing, particularly for people like me who have no expertise whatsoever in the area, is not to think about it. But it is now evident that the scale of the problem is so horrifyingly vast, that we do need to think about it for the sake of genuinely vulnerable human beings whose lives are being ruined.
I hope someone reading this can at least allay some of my worst fears about the scale of this horror.