David Aaronovitch’s and the “Classic Panic” over Child Sexual Abuse
We were extremely concerned when we read David Aaronovitch's column "Let's See Some Evidence. Then We Can Panic" published in the Times on July 10th. As a general rule of thumb, anyone who refers to public inquiries and investigative journalism into organised child sexual abuse rings as "paedogeddon" is already starting from a position of disbelieving the statements of victims of child sexual abuse.
Aaronovitch claims to be asking for 'real' evidence which can be 'proved'. This is the introduction to his article:
By that I don’t mean that far too many children and young people weren’t subject to abuse and sometimes rape, often at the hands of authority figures in whose care they had been placed. For the best part of 30 years we have been investigating in one inquiry after another accusations of abuse in children’s homes, schools, churches and, latterly, on the part of much-loved celebrities. If I think things are likely to be better than once they were, that isn’t to say that (as the recent grooming scandals told us) there aren’t hard lessons still to learn.
Yet I take my stand on evidence. People can make accusations, can infer guilt by association, can assert grandly. They can draw cartoons of murky establishments and of eyes under lifted stones. They may be right, they may be wrong. But only the evidence can tell you which it is. And in the past fortnight we have entered a zone heavy on claim and light on substance.
"People can make accusations" is rather a broad stroke. Does he mean those posting the names of alleged members online? Or, the victims themselves naming their perpetrators? The biggest lesson to learn from 30 years of inquiries into child sexual abuse ignored, covered up, and minimised is that very few people believe child victims when they come forward with allegations. Children are still dismissed as fantasists and liars - there has been no real change in this over 30 years.
It's quite clear from the dismissive way Aaronovitch writes that he doesn't trust evidence given by individuals. He wants 'corroboration'. This is why child sexual abuse continues. The refusal to believe children coupled with the refusal to acknowledge that their testimony is evidence allows child rapists to continue abusing children knowing that their victims will not be heard or believed. Child rapists target and groom vulnerable children. We know this is how they operate yet when vulnerable children speak out about their experiences they are labeled liars.
This is the true scandal: "or a half-convincing case is presented by victims to the police". Victims are not required to present a "case" to the police as Aaronovitch claims. They make a statement and the police are supposed to investigate it. It is the police and the CPS who make the case - not a victim. A statement to the police should immediately trigger an investigation but we have seen, time and time again, police failures to investigate claims of rape and sexual abuse made by all victims. We see the CPS refuse to prosecute because the victims are "real" victims: as if the only 'real' rapes committed are those by strangers of 'good girls'. We see juries more worried about the reputation of a rapist than the trauma of a victim. We see judges make statements about men who are convicted of rape being 'good' men <and this is without getting into the theory that men who murder their children are 'good fathers'>
Aaronovitch's article makes it very clear that he does not understand trauma, memory, the grooming process and systemic victim blaming. He needs trauma-informed specialist training on rape, sexual violence, and victim blaming. Demanding a public inquiry into a potential cover-up of an organised group of child rapists who held positions of power within the government and business is not creating a "panic". Suggestions that it is puts further children at risk. If Aaronovitch wants to learn lessons from 30 years of inquiries into systemic sexual abuse of vulnerable children, he can start by recognising that this is not a "moral panic". This is the daily lives of vulnerable children.