Everyday Victim Blaming

challenging institutional disbelief around domestic & sexual violence and abuse

Why Jeremy Forrest is No Victim

When I think of the adults I developed crushes on at 14-15, I cringe at my naivety & lack of judgment.  I am sure that I am not alone in this.

Thank goodness that I was fortunate enough not to fall foul of exploitative teachers and other adults.

The girl whom Jeremy Forrest abducted and groomed was not so fortunate.  This man, who was twice her age, preyed upon a 14 year old girl, who was away from home on a school trip, as she struggled with bulimia.  Could this possibly be any more abusive and exploitative?  It is almost text book stuff.  It doesn't matter how it is framed or portrayed as some tragic 'love story', it is abuse.

What kind of person, a supposed adult, declares his 'romantic love' for a child?  One who at best has an arrested development and is sorely lacking.  At worst, one who clearly enjoys and exploits the powerful position he is in, is on an ego trip, possibly a narcissist whose grandiose sense of self is gratified to have the adoration of a child whom she sees as her rescuer.

The UK has been hit by the exposés of a series of child abuse cases, many of which are historic and in the wake of Savile, have only just been finally acknowledged by the media and other authorities.  Alongside the celebrity cases there has also been a number of high profile 'Asian grooming' ones involving vulnerable girls. Quite rightly, most people have expressed revulsion at the behaviour of these powerful men and finally, it appeared that the general public was gaining an insight and understanding of the MO of these devious, manipulative and exploitative groomers of children.  They target the vulnerable, isolate them, make them feel special and/or loved then attack, buying secrecy and silence in the form of gifts and/or threats.

In light of all of this, one would hope for a responsible and sensitive reporting of the issues around child abuse, however, instead of which, this weekend, the British media has been subjected to headlines relating to the case of Jeremy Forrest, where the schoolgirl he abducted believes that she groomed him and today's latest, that if it weren't for her jealousy about a flirtatious barmaid (a trap designed to flush them out when they were in France), then they would never have been found.

I am not about to preach to the girl in question how she must be feeling, as I imagine there will be a range of conflicting emotions that she is experiencing, however this is horrible and so damaging to have such a huge sense of responsibility on such young shoulders, when the blame lies solely with the abductor and abuser, Jeremy Forrest.  That is beyond question, he was the adult in this scenario and not only that, one in a position of power and authority, being her school teacher.

The media is totally wrong to report this and if the girl in question is struggling with these feelings, I hope that she does get help and support to process them and realise that none of this her fault.   She is not responsible, no matter how guilty she feels.  Guilt is a very common emotion of survivors of abuse, partly because of the way in which as girls and women we are socialised into believing that men are uncontrollable when it comes to their sexuality, we are evil temptresses and it is our duty to protect ourselves from the uncontrollable male and if we are unable to, we have clearly lured them, siren- like into our wicked paths.

Secondly,  manipulative behaviour of child abusers is part of the grooming process; they convince the abused that they are complicit in or even wholly responsible for their behaviour.  This is part of a pattern with all types of abuse, including domestic violence and abuse and rape.

In my view, the girl has not only been exploited by Forrest but is now being exploited and abused by the press.  Where is the public interest in this angle?  What purpose does it serve?  To exonerate the behaviour of a male adult, in a position of power and authority who abducted a vulnerable child, took her away from her friends and family, isolating her in an unknown country where they would forever be 'on the run'.  A child who had a history of eating disorders and self-harm.  A child whose family had been lied to by Forrest and who were desperate about her wellbeing and whereabouts when she was abducted.

There will be survivors of child sex abuse who are triggered by the appalling manner in which this has been reported and may well be blaming themselves all over again for the behaviour of their abusers, dealing with the torment that they were somehow responsible.

This reporting also reinforces all the worst and most damaging stereotypes about the so called provocative and hyper-sexualised teenage girls who set their sights on an adult male and nothing will get in their way of 'ensnaring him'.   It is a variation of the 'groupie myth' used to let MEN off the hook for exploiting and abusing the teenage adoration of their child fans.

There will be abusers for whom this reporting is music to their ears. 'S/he made me do it and enjoyed it to boot.'  This reporting is surely designed to legitimise, normalise, glamorise and romanticise child sexual abuse.

Finally, the lowering of the Age of Consent lobby will adopt this as a cause célèbre. Just a reminder to anyone reading this who thinks that the age of consent in these situations is 16, it isn't, it is 18 and clearly stated in the Sexual Offences Act 2003.

Anyone who works with survivors of child sexual abuse will attest that it can take years, if not a lifetime in some cases, for survivors to stop blaming themselves. There is never ever any justification or excuse for abuse.  Do not fall for this trope.  The media is playing a dangerous game.

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25 thoughts on “Why Jeremy Forrest is No Victim

  • Elizabeth. says:

    The media is playing a dangerous game. But this “game” began a long time ago. Growing up during the 1980s i remember the term “wild child” A word that was used by the tabloids to describe Mandy Smith and Emma Ridley. They were children under the age of 16 who were being “papped” in nightclubs. Mandy was only 13 when a member of a popular rock group decided he wanted to “date” her (Note the inverted commas) And yet these young girls were referred to as “Wild child” Well that was only half right. They were children. I was only a couple of years younger than them and i thought the fact that they were getting into nightclubs and “dating older men” was “cool” But thats the point isnt it? In the teenage years you do develop crushes. It is part of growing up. But when a young girl does develop a crush on an adult it IS the responsibility of the adult in the situation to behave like an adult and not to take advantage or exploit or abuse. It is also the responsibility of other adults not to collude or condone as is the case with some of the adults in the Jeremy Forrest case And those adults that “partied” with Mandy and Emma in those nightclubs in the 1980s.

  • Caroline says:

    When I think of the adults I developed crushes on at 14-15, I cringe at my naivety & lack of judgment.

    That’s funny, because when I think of the people I fancied aged 14 they’re pretty much the same as those I would fancy today.

    And congratulations on the stunning strawman premise of this article. Of course Jeremy Forrest is no victim – who on earth said he was? What many people are questioning is not that he was the victim but whether there was a victim at all.

    There is only any “blame” to apportion if he abused her, in which case the blame lies entirely, exclusively with him. If he didn’t abuse her and they just mutually fell for each other, then there isn’t any blame to place in any direction. Either way, no blame would attach to the girl, so where on earth does “victim blaming” come into this case?

    As for her feeling responsible for him being in jail – well, no kidding. The father of Malala Yousafzai has said that he feels responsible for what happened to her. And it would be astonishing if he didn’t – it was his school she attended, his campaigning for the rights of girls to education made her a target, he encouraged her to stand up for her own rights and those of other girls – of course he feels responsible. Naturally, he isn’t actually to blame at all – the only blame in that case lies with the lunatics who shot his daughter in the head. But who wouldn’t feel partly responsible in his position?

    Exactly the same applies to the girl the Jeremy Forrest case – of course she isn’t to blame and I’m sure she doesn’t feel that she is. That’s not what she has said at all. She, like Mr Yousafzai, has said she feels partly responsible, which is a perfectly natural reaction to something bad happening to someone you love in these kinds of circumstances.

    • Admin says:

      He was her teacher, with a position of responsibility. As stated in the above post, the Age Of Consent in this case is 18.

      Your comment is disingenous, at best.

      • Caroline says:

        I’m aware of that. I wasn’t commenting on the age of consent or the legal aspects of this case, I was commenting on the fact that you are making a clear connection between this case and victim blaming.

        He absolutely did something illegal and absolutely should have gone to jail. But the age of consent laws (and those relating to positions of trust) are there as a catch-all, because having a firm line is the only way to protect those who really would be victims of abuse. So to enable that protection you have to punish across the board, even in cases which show all the signs of being an exception to the rule.

        So you will get no argument from me on his imprisonment, or even on the somewhat exemplary sentence he has received. But your article goes further than the legal aspects, into territory of moral judgments and human emotions. And on this territory, I would argue this case is far more complex than you are making out, and is vastly different to the horrifying Rochdale/Oxford/Saville/Hall cases.

        Sorry, this is getting long-winded – my point was that you are drawing an (IMO) unwarranted conclusion that the girl’s feelings of partial responsibility for Forrest’s imprisonment are both a result of and evidence for her being a victim of abuse. But there is an entirely different and equally possible explanation.

        • Admin says:

          Sounds like some victims are more ‘worthy’ than others. Which is the very essence of victim blaming.

          There is a post regarding Amanda Lamb who also didn’t think she was ‘victim blaming, it will be worth a read.

        • > “He absolutely did something illegal and absolutely should have gone to jail.”

          Since you accept that, why is it such a stretch to make the connection between this case and victim-blaming?

        • Alison says:

          Indeed, Caroline, it is not solely a question of legalities, professional conduct, appropriate teacher/student relationship, abuse of power and so on but it is indeed about ethics and the morality of sexually abusing children through the grooming process, to the extent that they believe that their abuser genuinely loves them, the child forms an unhealthy emotional attachment and are of the view that it is they are responsible for the adult’s behaviour. The Mirror has also reported on how Forrest has a history of this.

          ‘Chloe is one of a string of girls 30-year-old Forrest allegedly tried to groom before he fled to France with his latest under-age conquest last September.’

          http://www.mirror.co.uk/news/uk-news/jeremy-forrest-tried-groom-thirteen-1977466

    • Gemma says:

      Please compare articles and information on grooming with the information that she has divulged herself. He did every one. When you’re groomed you don’t realise.

      • Alison says:

        Thanks Gemma. When you say ‘he did everyone’, do you mean Forrest? I agree, when you’re being groomed, you don’t realise, as one of his pupils herself has said.

    • shel says:

      Caroline, there is no “strawman” in this very well written article.

      What happened in this case this was not “love”. The long and the short of it is that this is nothing more than a case of a man who abused his position of authority over this girl.

      Would you have said the same if it were a house father of a children’s home that did this, and groomed one of the children at the home?

      The reason the child feels “responsible” is that she was groomed into feeling this way by her abuser. it is a typical abuser’s act, allied with “I will go to prison, and it will be your fault”.

      If what he did was not for nefarious means, why did he abduct her to France, away from the safety of her family home?

  • Alison says:

    Whether vastly different or not, the point is that the MO of the groomer is pretty well consistent across the board; gaining trust, making the child feel special, manipulation and the secrecy (whether that is achieved with gifts or threats such as’do you want me to end up in jail?’). For ‘secrecy’ read ‘isolation’ as the last thing that the groomer wants is for others to tell the child that what is happening to him/her is wrong or report them.

    Headlines such as ‘I groomed him’ are victimising the perpetrator as some hapless individual who was manipulated and led on by a child.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hi Alison,

    Thanks for this article. My ex-husband was 19 when he was convicted and placed on the sex offenders register for abusing teenage girls. At the time I believed he “happened to fall for teenage girls”, rather than him deliberately targetting or abusing them. Not only did I believe this, so did many of the police officers and probation officers involved in his case. Also the girls families blamed them and accused them of trying to “split up a family” rather than blaming him.

    I eventually escaped him (he had also abused me) and began to see a pattern of grooming and predatory behaviour towards teenage girls that wasn’t an accident or “attraction”. It’s really important for these sorts of conversations to be happening. The girls he abused had no one to tell them he was wrong and they defended him and believed that he loved them. Thanks for writing this blog and as someone who has been involved with someone like Mr Forrester, I can assure you, this was not a consensual love affair, but abuse, and the ongoing damage to the young girl is atrocious. As you say, to see a large UK newspaper printing such messages, it is unacceptable and needs challenging.

    • shel says:

      Anonymous,
      I agree with your comments, I am also aghast that the red-tops are printing such garbage, and trying to infer that the child involved is some kind of Lolita, who “seduced” her teacher.
      Whether she had some kind of crush on him or not is completely irrelevant. She was a child.
      As the blogger has pointed out, here, number of times, He,as the person with authority over the child should have extricated himself from the situation, at the very least, and absolutely should have kept his hands off her.
      I’m appalled that the tabloids have been allowed to print the stuff they did, about the child involved. It was salacious,and vile of them to do so, and in my opinion as she is still a minor, it compounds the wrong done to her.
      Of course youngsters will develop crushes on people:- it’s part of growing up.
      I remember, as an adolescent, how my heart did flip-flops every time my favourite pop star appeared on the TV.
      Psychologically, crushes are part of adolescence, part of getting to understand our emotions until the “real thing” comes along.
      As the adult, this girl’s teacher should have squared up to his responsibilities as one of the adults overseeing her welfare. He was the one who had the responsibility whereby he should have said to the girl “No, it’s not happening, at all, you are a schoolCHILD and I am your teacher”
      Okay I know, “ifs and buts”, and “Should haves, and could haves…”
      the fact remains it was HIS responsibility to keep his hands off the child concerned.
      I agree with your comments, anonymous, that the teacher is guilty of grooming her not just into having an inappropriate sexual relationship with him, but grooming her into feeling that she was the instigator, and that it was she who led him astray.
      I don’t care if the girl would have done the dance of the seven veils for him, she was still “out of bounds”.
      I feel very sad that this girl is still mistakenly thinking this was all “love”, and that she was the one who led him astray.

    • Alison says:

      Hi Anonymous, I am sorry to hear about your experiences, however, thank you for sharing them; it is important that survivors who feel able to do to convey the reality and effects of child sexual abuse and having been the target of predatory grooming.

      I see that the media is continuing to run with this in the most irresponsible way imaginable and many defenders of Forrest (mostly male) are championing his cause. I find the whole thing hugely disturbing abnd deeply worrying.

  • Denise says:

    Thank you for this well written article – there are a few things surrounding this case that as a woman and mother I find very disturbing and would be interested to hear what you think.

    1. The girl was a prolific tweeter and seemed to have a steady group of middle aged men who supported and counted her as their “friend”

    2. I presume the girl was paid for this latest article? I find it highly disturbing that her parents/step parents thought it was ok for her to do so? She maybe unidentifiable in the eyes of the law – but most not only knows what she looks like but where she lives and probably ate for breakfast – where is the safeguarding of a child here?

    Whilst I am trying not to be too judgemental about her broken home life I cannot help feeling that she never and continues not to get much adult guidance at home.

    3. I do wonder if she is getting any help from agencies? if so who might it be?

    • Alison says:

      Hi Denise, how disturbing that middle aged men would flock around a girl known to have been groomed by a teacher, sadly all too predictable. I expect this is the stuff of many a sick male fantasy.

      I don’t know if she has been paid. As she is not allowed contact with Forrest, perhaps this is her way of getting the message to him that she stands by him and is not turning her back on him? Good question as to who is looking out for her, I read that she is estranged from her mother and her father supports her ‘relationship’ with Forrest.

      • Denise says:

        Alison Thank you for your reply – just so disturbing that this girl continues to get so much media coverage almost to the point of becoming tabloid fodder – I can imagine for her the more she is pushed away the more determined she is going to get – which is part of a growing up process!

  • Phil says:

    Anyone who thinks Forrest has been hard done by really needs to read the judge’s sentencing remarks.

    http://www.crimeline.info/case/r-v-jeremy-forrest

    Lots of aggravating factors listed, including repeated acts of deception against his colleagues, his wife and the girl herself. Almost nothing listed in mitigation.

    The guy didn’t “fall in love”. He’s a predator and belongs in prison.

    • Alison says:

      Well said Phil. I agree, everything he did appears to motivated out of self-interest, with no thought to the impact his behaviour (as long as his needs and wants were being met) impacted on or affected others, including the girl herself, her family and his wife.

  • jess says:

    It’s such a relief to read an article/comments that contain common sense. I made the mistake of reading some of the comments on a daily mail article about this story & was horrified at the people defending this pervert & claiming that 15yr is ‘grown up’.

    The facts are clear. He groomed other girls, but they weren’t interested, this girl was & look what it’s led to.
    I feel so sorry for the girls mother who can see this situation clearly, & also for his poor wife who he betrayed only months after marrying her. The prosecution said that she had similar emotional issues to the girl & she looks very young for her age too.
    Hope everyone who’s been hurt in this situation can recover.

    • Alison says:

      Thanks Jess. Thankfully, not everyone is fooled by this ‘love story’ narrative nor willing to confer agency on a child, one with a history of bulimia and self-harm at that. It seems so obvious to many that there is a pattern to Forrest’s behaviour, given his wife’s background and the fact that a former pupil has also spoken about about how he tried to groom her when she was 13. There have been a few recent high profile cases of men convicted of violent crimes who have similar histories of preying on young/underage vulnerable girls. To me, there are red flags all over Forrest’s history.

      • jess says:

        Yes, the girl who came forward said she didn’t realise what his intentions were, just that he seemed a bit creepy, as did the other girls who came forward but weren’t named.
        It’s so obvious, if it was genuine concern for the children in his care, he would have shown the same interest in the boys in his classes as well.
        It makes me feel sick when I see people saying that it’s a travesty of justice that he was found guilty. It’s like people don’t understand the difference between kidnap & abduction.
        His family have made so many excuses & done their best to blame everyone except him, I guess he groomed them too.

        • Alison says:

          Totally agree with you Jess. If he had such genuine concern, as you say, he would have shown the same level of interest in the welfare of the boys and referred them to appropriate professionals for support. Also feel similarly sickened by those who believe that a huge injustice has been done. My guess is that if they had never been caught and had continued their ‘relationship’, he would at some point have gone on to groom others.

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