Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Group of White Men Jailed for Raping Child.

UPDATE: This article was originally published on 6.10.2013. The most frequent response to it is not to ask why the mainstream media did not cover this case of white men targeting a child for sexual exploitation and rape. Nor have questions been raised about the euphemistic language used to describe the sexual abuse and rape experienced by the child. The consistent response has always been "why did you use the term white men" to describe the perpetrator. This question is never asked when the perpetrator is Muslim or a member of a BME community. In cases of child sexual exploitation and rape involving perpetrators who are not defined as "white British christians", the ethnicity, nationality or faith of the perpetrator is always deemed newsworthy. When the perpetrator is a white man, ethnicity, nationality and faith are deemed irrelevant. The media is more likely to cover violence against women and girls as a systemic problem if the perpetrator is a Person of Colour. They are more likely to make excuses for a perpetrator who is white - you only need to examine the coverage of men who kill their wives and children. White men who kill are deemed 'jealous', 'distressed', 'depressed' and 'hurt'. BME men who kill are 'savages',

Ending a victim blaming culture requires challenging white supremacy as much as it requires challenging patriarchy. The two are not distinct entities but the very basis of our culture. If you have asked why we included the ethnicity of them men in the title of this article but have never even questioned the use of race, ethnicity of faith in media coverage of other cases, then you need to reflect on your own racist assumptions about child sexual abuse and other forms of violence against women and girls because the problem here is not that we have identified the perpetrators as white men, but that the media is responsible for misleading and offensive coverage of violence against women and girls based on racist assumptions and stereotypes that have detrimental impacts on the safety of children and the ways in which child protection and the criminal justice system respond to CSE.

'10 men jailed over North Yorkshire girl's sexual exploitation'

The reporting in this case has been scarce, to say the least. Whilst we're aware that the case was embargoed due to the high number of trials that happened simultaneously, 12 defendants have been sentenced, with a further 18 men either given cautions, or had no action taken against them. Full details of this case can be found via the local press in York, who have covered this case in some detail.

The BBC reporting erases the reality of what has actually happened in this case. It seems that due to the age of the victim (13 years old), the men have been prosecuted under Section 9 of the Sexual Offences Act - Sexual Activity with a Child. Had she been 12, it's likely that the offences charged would have been rape and/or sexual assault.

"Some of the men were married with children and individually preyed on the girl, committing offences including having sex with her."

This comment is puzzling. The men 'had sex with' a 13 year old child? 'Have sex with' suggests consent.  Sex without consent is rape, and so by its very nature, sex is consensual. If it isn't consensual, it is rape. This seems very difficult for people to grasp, and yet it is actually very simple.

If the BBC reporter is trying to tell us that the men raped the child (as they must have, because she was 13 and unable to consent), why doesn't s/he say that? It looks to us like this is an example of 'othering' the victim. She 'wasn't like' the men's children. It suggests she was 'different', which is why they chose to abuse her, and not their own children. Use of language such as this is inappropriate for all of us discussing child sexual abuse, and the media continue to conflate issues and use euphemistic terms when talking about sexual abuse and exploitation.

The article includes a quote from Det Ch Supt Simon Mason, who states:

"the offenders included a teacher, a travelling salesman, a shop worker and an unemployed mechanic.

They came from all walks of life, all types of professions, including one man that was located in Europe.

We're not quite sure of the relevance of these quotes. If it's to tell us that the men involved were 'ordinary men with ordinary lives', then perhaps he should have said that. We know that men abuse children regardless of their occupation or economic status.

There were a variety of marital relationships and the fact that they had access to their own children and other children."

What does this mean? The men had children of their own, but chose to abuse anyway? Lots of men who are charged with sexual offences against children have their own children. Some men sexually abuse their own children. Some men sexually abuse the children of others. Is Det Ch Supt warning us that these men had regular contact with children, and chose to abuse only one of them? We've asked North Yorkshire Police for comment and we'll update this piece if they respond to us.

What does this case say about media reporting of child sexual abuse and exploitation? If we refer back to the Oxford case, there were lots of media comment and opinion pieces about 'Muslim' or 'Asian' men, abusing white girls. No mention of race in the York case.

The men were all white.

How is it acceptable to report on race in some instances, and not in others? We think we can safety say that the media reporting won't be talking of 'white gangs' or 'Christian gangs' sexually abusing and exploiting young girls.

Many media reports have previously included use of the term 'gang' to describe men in sexual exploitation cases. Not so in the BBC article above. It is difficult to tell whether or not the perpetrators knew one another due to the limited information available.  If we are looking at the definition of a 'gang' to include those with a shared interest, these men certainly fit - their shared interest or activity was one of sexually abusing children. So why are these men not a 'gang' when other men who commit child sexual abuse would be labelled as such by the media.

Whether they knew one another or not, it's unlikely that these men thought they were the only adult engaging with sexual activity with the child in question.

Another angle that hasn't been able to be used in this case is service failure. In many of the previous 'sexual abuse gang' cases, the victim(s) have been from families with additional support needs and some of the children involved were under the care of the local authority. Bashing services involved in these cases is almost a national sport - we see many criticisms of children's services by the mainstream media, but limited analysis as to why the system may fail; and certainly almost no discussion about the impact of funding cuts on already-stretched services being expected to safeguard more children with less funding and increased caseloads.

The victim in this case is seemingly from a 'nice, middle class' background, with no additional indicators that could be seized on by mainstream media. The absence of poverty, family breakdown or substance misuse means the media don't have a 'troubled families' agenda to cling to.

We need to ask the media to respond to concerns about these issues. We need to say - it's not acceptable to slant a story with racism. It's not acceptable to slant a story to criticise services. It's not acceptable to only focus on victims or perpetrators in order to fuel an underlying racist or classist agenda.

We need to ask our law makers - why are terms such as 'child pornography' or 'sexual activity with a child' still on our statute books? Why are we differentiating between the sexual abuse of a 12 year old child, and the sexual abuse of a 13 year old?

We need to keep questioning, and we need not to be distracted.

 

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4 thoughts on “Group of White Men Jailed for Raping Child.

  • Hecuba says:

    According to the male supremacist legal system ‘children under the age of 13 years of age are presumed to be incapable of giving consent to sexual activity.’ Children aged between 13 and 16 are presumed to be ‘capable of giving consent to sexual activity.’ Yes I know this is nonsensical but because a child under the age of 13 is presumed to be incapable of ‘giving consent’ this means males charged with raping a female or male child under the age of 13 is not able to claim ‘but guv I thought she had consented and she looked to be older than 16!’

    In reality of course male sexual predators will make any excuse in an attempt to deny their accountability.

    Such legislation concerning sexual exploitation/sexual violence against any female or male child under the age of 16 urgently needs to be clarified so that male sexual predators are not able to use the common excuse ‘but she looked older than 16 and anyway she was over 13 years of age!’

    Differentiating between male sexual exploitation/male sexual violence perpetrated against a female/male child under the age of 13 and those female/male children aged between 13-16 ensures one thing only and that is mitigation of male sexual predators’ choice and agency to commit said crimes.

    Reason why malestream media conveniently ignored this important case is because all the males charged are white and the female victim cannot be sensationalised as supposedly ‘just another sexually promiscuous female who chose to become adult men’s disposable sexual plaything!’

    White men supposedly do not supposedly engage in group rapes of ‘respectable female children’ and neither do white men supposedly collaborate together to engage in sexually preying on respectable female children!’

    Malestream media by ignoring this important case is ensuring continuance of rape myths and claims that only ‘paedophiles’ sexually target children (sex is always not mentioned) because it is essential male sexual predatory behaviour/attitudes must not be challenged or raised.

  • Emma says:

    Hecuba, the law can rarely afford to be so clear cut as you are expecting it to be. Were it the case that all sexual activity were criminalised under the age of 16, there would be a horrific amount of young people who would have criminal records, simply because they had consensual activity with a similar aged child. There had to be recognition in law that at some point, young people explore sexuality and engage in sexual behaviour through their sexual development. The age of 13 was used as an arbitrary cut off, much the same as the age of consent, as a means by which to draw a line in the sand, so to speak.

    There is a case to argue that the criminal justice system has too ready to use the under 16 burden of proof, as opposed to u13, to justify inactivity with regards to criminality, and ignore issues related to power and capacity to consent or refuse to engage in those activities. However, these are beginning to play more of a part in those discussions (hence the CSE cases, where previously children were deemed to have been making choices etc.) now being prosecuted.

    With regards to the ethnicity of offenders and the dearth of reporting, I am utterly bemused. There is very little else needed as to the agenda of the mainstream media when reporting on Oxford, Rochdale, Derby, Hereford etc. as compared with how they have reported this, other than the ethnicity/religion issues. I do despair.

    • Admin says:

      We agree with this comment but as a professional who has worked in both child protection and education, and worked with a huge number of children who have been, or are, sexually active with a similar age child – I have never known either of the children involved to be criminalised or prosecuted.

      When children (or 13-16 year old young people, to be more exact) are sexually active with one another, this isn’t a case for the criminal justice system as long as the sexual activity is consensual and the relationship isn’t abusive. They may need additional support around emotional needs, contraceptive advice and safety advice, but criminalising them isn’t something that should be done under most circumstances.

      Not prosecuting abusive adults who have sexual relationships with children (as in this case) under rape legislation leads to a discussion of some victims being more ‘worthy’ of serious prosecutions, than others.

      In my opinion, we should be prosecuting these men under the most serious legislation, where it can be proved that there is both an age, and power imbalance – as clearly there is in this case.

      With regard to the racist angle – we agree that there isn’t another way to see this. Either the ethnicity and race of men prosecuted for sexual exploitation of children is relevant, or it isn’t. It cannot be relevant in some cases, and yet not relevant in others.

  • Admin says:

    We’ve amended the title as it is not clear that these men were a ‘gang’ as defined by the Children’s Commissioner.

    http://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/info/csegg1