Distractions of a pressing nature unfortunately prevent me from focusing on the new blog that heretics will be expecting round about now. So forgive me if I confine myself to noting some topical items that ought not to go unmentioned, albeit without much original analysis.
Most obviously, the Goddard inquiry has stirred into some sort of life again after twice being almost strangled at birth by the very “victims” who are most insistent on the importance of its success.
It may be recalled that the so-called Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (it will be “independent” of any heretical input, we may be sure) in the UK, is now headed by Justice Lowell Goddard, a member of the judiciary of New Zealand, after false starts under other leadership deemed by the victim lobby to be too close to the British Establishment.
Goddard, appointed chair of the inquiry in 2014, announced what the “first 12 investigations” of the inquiry would focus on. First 12! Each one of these tasks, taking in alleged abuse across a broad swath of institutions including churches, children’s homes, schools, hospitals, and the as yet elusive VIP “abuse linked to Westminster”, could take decades. By the time this lot has been finished and they are into the next batch (the next 12?!) many of the complainants, and perhaps all of the alleged “abusers”, will be long gone.
Also elusive is what it is meant to achieve, given that the law has become ever more restrictive, its enforcement ever more vigilant and intrusive, and the penalties for transgression ever more draconian.
Luke Gittos, writing in Spiked, where he is the law editor, wrote an excellent piece on this, “The Goddard inquiry: therapy, not justice”. Far from making children safer, he noted, the inquiry would merely stoke up paranoia and further corrode the relationship between adults and young people.
On one point I slightly disagree with his emphasis. He takes the government to task for plans to teach children “as young as 11” about sexual consent. There is of course nothing wrong with teaching children about consent, at this age and considerably younger. But as Gittos knows perfectly well, the government would be thinking only about how to deter kids from sexual encounters, by dinning into them that they cannot consent, and that sex is only for adults. In any case, the NSPCC is already running rampant in schools across the country peddling their abusive propaganda, poisoning young minds with the overwhelming message that sexual encounters are necessarily dangerous and doomed to end in tears.
Bringing his lawyerly view to bear, Gittos notes:
Where previous inquiries at least helped to establish the facts of particular cases for the purpose of making recommendations, truth has been the first casualty of the Goddard Inquiry. As part of the so-called Truth Project, complainants will give evidence in private, many avoiding the process of cross-examination altogether. What’s more, those giving evidence to the inquiry, who claim to be the victims of abuse, will not be referred to as complainants, or witnesses, but as “survivors”. The truth of their testimony, it seems, will be assumed. These individuals held enormous sway over the inquiry’s chairperson selection process, with two previous chairs rejected because of survivors’ concerns about bias. This inquiry is not about getting at the truth – it’s about lending official recognition to people’s experiences and providing them with emotional closure.
The panic-mongers have been busy on the survey front lately, too, with the BBC giving a new twist to the old “tip of the iceberg” cliché as a metaphor for the scale of “child sexual abuse” (CSA). A report by the BBC’s social affairs correspondent Alison Holt on research by the Children’s Commissioner for England was headed “Child sexual abuse – How big is the ‘iceberg’?”.
The big theme here was that the tip of the iceberg – cases of CSA that are visible because they have come to the attention of the authorities – amounts to only one eighth of the ice. So in the case of seven children out of eight, the CSA remains hidden below the waterline.
Bearing in mind that this “research” for the Children’s Commissioner (CC) may well have been designed to manufacture exaggerated results – like the NSPCC, the Commissioner’s office knows that hyperbole will raise its public profile – I believe we are entitled to be sceptical. The BBC report says there were extensive interviews of “survivors”, but there is no explanation of how the scale of unreported abuse was determined.
For the moment, though, let’s take the claim at face value. The media and the lobby groups throw up their hands in horror, natch. Appalling! Scandalous!
But what we can guarantee about the CC report (as per above I haven’t had the opportunity to check it out in detail) is that it makes no distinction between real abuse (forced or coerced) and willing participants in “abuse”. In other words, the huge underwater bulk of the iceberg may well contain a high proportion of children, and now grown-up former “victims”, who are not visible to the authorities for a very good reason: they do not want to be.
Yes, some will stay silent out of shame or fear, which is the usual mantra. But there would be a lot less of either if youngsters were encouraged to speak openly about the full range of their experiences. It is important to air real abuses, but positive stories should also be heard, without anyone having to worry about being labelled against their wishes as victims. In a truly open society, with real children’s rights, it would be so much easier to distinguish abuse from “abuse”, and to act accordingly.
R.I.P. MARK BEHR (1963 – 2015)
Mark Behr, who died recently at only 52 years of age, is best known to Kind readers as the author of Embrace, a novel set in a real, named, residential boys’ choir school in South Africa – no doubt much to the embarrassment of its hierarchy for its depiction of a thoroughly brutal institutional ethos, albeit one in which mutually desired and intensely passionate illicit sex found its clandestine place.
Appropriately enough, I was introduced to this novel by a fellow inmate while incarcerated in HMP Wandsworth, another tough place where the residents are detained regardless of their wishes, albeit nothing like as vicious as Behr’s choir school! Embrace is beyond question a masterpiece, not just as a work of great Kind (or deeply unkind) interest but also as Literature with a capital L. Superbly written, Behr’s evocation of its remote Drakensberg setting is mesmerising.
Behr reportedly died of a heart attack. Born in Tanzania in 1963, and grew up in South Africa. His first published novel, The Smell of Apples (1995), brought him fame and literary prizes.
Embrace (2000), his second novel, was shortlisted for the Sunday Times Fiction Prize. I suppose it is theoretically possible that the winner (I have no idea who won) could have been more deserving of the honour. My suspicion, though, is that the book’s extremely controversial nature was the deciding factor against it.