Nothing like Nordic noir to cheer us up!

222 Comments

Stunning research in two studies, from Finland and Germany, has already been reported this year, both of which give a big boost to the heretical claim that kind people are much kinder – more caring in their feelings towards children and liked by them – than the present, all-pervasive, vilification suggests.

I’ll start with the one that looks at children’s own perceptions, not least because studies of this type are exceedingly rare, and provided they have been well conducted they are pure gold. This is a study based on the Finnish Child Victim Survey. That word “victim” doesn’t sound very promising, does it? But it was a survey with thousands of child participants, carried out in schools, that looked at children as victims of real crimes and mistreatment, such as theft and physical violence, as well as so-called “child sexual abuse” (CSA) by a much older person. Crucially, it was not assumed that the children would think they were victims. Instead, they were asked how they would characterise these contacts.

And guess what? Most 12-year-olds reported CSA as a positive experience. Go compare that with the dogma touted on sex offender courses that no child would ever want or enjoy it!  More about the Finnish findings in a minute.

As for the German research, it is one of those big, prestigious, neuroscience affairs that might be completely wrong – this is cutting edge stuff, after all, looking at the most complex structure in the known universe, the human brain – but which we would be foolish to ignore. It is a paper by Jorge Ponseti, an established figure in the field, along with a team of no fewer than 18 co-authors. The take-away point from it for now is the study’s tentative conclusion that male paedophiles, far from being aggressive and rapacious, appear to have a stronger caring, nurturing response towards the young than other adult males. It is good to see science at last catching up with what many of us have known all our adult lives just by being aware of our own more tender feelings towards kids. In fairness to science, though, nearly three decades ago (and as the paper notes) the Austrian ethologist Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt expressed a similar view, suggesting that paedophilia might in some cases be based on an “eroticization of parental love”.

The implications are obvious and could in future hardly be more profound for how paedophiles are viewed in society if this pioneering study’s findings are confirmed through further research. This is so important that it needs a separate blog, which I plan to bring out in due course.

Turning back to Finland, what we have is a 2018 paper based on the large (n = 11,364) population-based sample of sixth and ninth grade schoolchildren conducted in that country in 2013 and published in 2014 (in Finnish) as the Finnish Child Victim Survey. The paper, by Lahtinen et al., focused solely on the CSA data in the survey. The sixth graders were mostly aged 12 and the ninth graders mostly aged 15 at the time of the survey, which was completed on a voluntary classroom-by-classroom basis in schools across Finland. Respondents’ gender distribution was equal. So-called “abuse” by adults (perceived by some respondents as abusive but not by others) was based on the question “Have you ever experienced sexual advances or intercourse with an adult or a person at least 5 years older than you?” Follow-up questions were asked about the age of the respondent and age of the other person at the time of the events. Over 70% of the reported incidents involved actual sexual contact rather than a non-contact proposition or exhibitionism.

The children, answering the survey on classroom computers, were able to give their responses anonymously, without pressure from therapists or law enforcement sources, and without time for their memories to be overwritten by distorting influences at a later stage, as adults. So this procedure avoided any colouring added by the culturally imposed notion that children are asexual and “innocent”, or by the preconception that any sexual involvement with an adult must amount to “abuse”.

Perhaps the most striking finding, as noted above, is that a majority (54%) of the 12-year-olds who reported sexual contacts with an adult described it as a positive experience.

This finding, being potentially embarrassing to the child abuse industry (which thrives on generating and elaborating victim narratives rather than discovering reasons to be cheerful) was not headlined in the report. Instead, it emerged in an emailed response to questions presented by an independent researcher to Monica Fagerlund, lead author of the Finnish Child Victim Survey itself. The email was sent back in 2016, long before the very recent appearance of the Lahtinen et al. paper. The independent researcher was none other than Filip Schuster, who will be known to many here for his extremely well-informed comments at Heretic TOC.

However, Lahtinen et al.’s published paper contains further data of an inconvenient nature for the victimological view, as will be clear to the savvy reader despite the authors’ attempts to talk the implications down, through caveat and spin.

The analyses focused on the subsample of 256 children and adolescents who reported having sexual experiences with adults or with someone at least five years older at the time of the incident. This subsample amounts to 2.4% of the total sample, a figure some might feel is very low, and indeed reassuringly so on a conventional view, given that a survey of children themselves would appear to be the most reliable method.

For the boys, the experience was often positive (71%), whereas for the girls it was less often so evaluated (26%). Almost half of the girls (46%) said the experience was negative, compared to 9% of the boys. These findings were much the same for the sixth and ninth graders.

The most popular reason for not disclosing the contact to an adult was considering the experience not serious enough (41%). Other options included: “I did not believe that anyone would be interested” (14%); “I did not believe that disclosing would help me” (14%); miscellaneous other reasons (8%) included “I did not want to”, “There was nothing to tell”, and “I enjoyed it”. More negative reasons accounted for barely a quarter of the total:  “I did not have the courage to tell” (14%); “I was too ashamed to disclose” (10%).

The authors commented in the paper:

The small number of answers to the question of whether a sexual incident with an adult was considered negative or positive does not enable testing statistical significance…. Most of the children reported these incidents as positive. This highlights the potentially contradictory views of an incident from the perspective of the respondent compared to that of society and the law.

I posted on Sexnet about the paper, asking specifically for members’ expert opinion on this statistical point. The size of the subsample (n = 256) is indeed small compared to the overall sample (n = 11,364) but to the layman the absolute number looks easily large enough to derive valid inferences in which considerable confidence can be placed.

Having mentioned the authors’ caveat on statistical significance, I should perhaps add a word about their spin. In fairness this is pretty much confined to two sentences in the “Conclusions and implications” section:

These results, taken together with the finding that many of the children did not label their experiences as sexual abuse, indicate that more age-appropriate safety education for children and adolescents is needed to encourage disclosures to adults early enough… Early disclosure is crucial, both for ending the abuse and for preventing perpetrators from moving on to new victims.

Again, I posted on Sexnet about this, writing:

So blinkered has research become that the policy point here (more safety education needed) will probably seem utterly uncontroversial to most people working in the field. That is because, for them, the victimological paradigm has become incontrovertible common sense. But this is zombie science. It lacks an alert appreciation of the data before the authors’ eyes, which clearly indicate that a very significant (in lay terms at least) proportion of the “victims” are only thus designated by convention, not by the evidence. This is not to argue against the goal of reducing real victimisation. It is just to suggest that a bigger and very important picture is being missed.

I am pleased to report that Mike Bailey, psychology professor at Northwestern University, and Sexnet moderator, supported my interpretation of the stats, posting to say “You are correct that size of the sub sample with ‘CSA’ is adequate for statistical tests.” He also said the study was “unusually informative”, thanking me for posting about it and kindly saying “Your take on this study is trenchant and brave”.

This was too good to last, sadly. Before you could say “knee-jerk reaction” my long-time adversary James Cantor had piped up, making a complete snowflake of himself (or of his colleagues) by asserting that my criticism of the CSA industry was offensive and would deter discussion of the paper – as though the 300-plus researchers and clinicians on Sexnet would be scared to challenge me. Yes, that’s me, little me, the sole surviving, vocal, non-virtuous paedo perv on the forum, faced with the massed ranks of the abuse industry’s intellectual elite, including leading lights within the Association for the Treatment of Sexual Abusers (ATSA)!

But at least Dr Cantor admitted that he agreed “with the basic conclusion of the posted article”, which is something. As is the fact that Dr Bailey was prompted to post again, saying my reference to the CSA industry “raises an issue I’ve been meaning to write about for a while”.

And write he did, at considerable length, in a remarkable post admitting that “in the culture at large, we are biased in a way that exaggerates the harmfulness of child-adult sex, often in a hysterical way”. He proceeded to write his own four-paragraph critique of the CSA industry, saying, for instance, government funding for research on CSA “is extraordinarily biased towards searching for harm” rather than positive experience. Nor were there grants to study why there might be positive experiences, including the possibility that iatrogenic harm is avoided when children and their adult partners manage to avoid law enforcement in their relationship, with its crushing impact on the younger partner as well as the older one.

Bailey’s contribution was wonderful but there were also a couple of tough queries arising from the detailed stats that put the validity of the findings in some doubt. Follow-up emails by Filip to Monica Fagerlund and Hanna-Mari Lahtinen elicited some further information but not enough to settle the key issues. Hanna even sent me a friendly email out of the blue, saying that in order to get good answers to the questions being raised she would need “qualitative data such as written answers to open questions. Unfortunately we did not have such questions concerning sexual abuse in this questionnaire…”

Yes, unfortunate but understandable. There is only so much that can be packed into a single survey.

Not to worry, though, for I soon discovered that the Finnish Findings are strongly supported by the Danish Data! Yes, in this rapidly unfolding Scandinavian thriller series (a Netflix box-set can’t be far off) another study has turned up in the nick of time!

Like the Lahtinen et al., paper, this Danish one was based on a rare survey – vanishingly rare in the US and UK at least – of school students rather than adults. The article, by Karin Helweg-Larsen and Helmer Bøving Larsen, came out in 2006 and appears to have been somewhat overlooked – certainly by me, perhaps on account of its miserablist title: “The prevalence of unwanted and unlawful sexual experiences reported by Danish adolescents: Results from a national youth survey in 2002”.

On close inspection, though, which required a few calculations of my own, it looks very hard to justify any claim that the survey was entirely or even mostly about unwanted sex. Rather, it was about illegal sex below the age of consent, set at 15 in Denmark. The participants in the survey were 9th grade students, nearly all of whom were themselves aged 15. Unlike the youngsters in Finland, they were not asked whether they felt the experience had been positive or negative but they were asked whether they felt it had been abusive or not. Thus the experience may or may not have been perceived as enjoyable and beneficial but it seems reasonable to infer that those who did not feel it was abusive probably thought they had consented to what happened, in fact if not in law.

So how many of these apparently consensual encounters were there? The authors wrote:

“A total of 7.5% of girls and 2% of boys reported CSA where the older person was at least five years older than the child, but less than half of the respondents perceived these experiences as sexual abuse.”

The relevant data were to be found in Table II, albeit without the percentages I was looking for. After working these out, is became clear that fully 60% of the respondents (boys 65% and girls – of whom there were far more – 59%) did not consider they had been abused.

What all this amounts to is extraordinarily good news. The Danish survey strongly supports the Finnish one in allowing us to conclude that when children are allowed to give their own perception of their sexual experiences with much older people, usually adults, a high proportion of them in effect say they consented to what happened and look back on it as something good in their life.

The CSA industry does its best to hide these encouraging facts even as it unwittingly discloses them via surveys aimed at discovering an endless parade of victims for society to be anxious and miserable about. Instead of joyful stories of companionable intimacy, everything has to be turned into bleak Nordic noir. We must not let them get away with it!

 

 

 

The chair is dead, long live the chair!

41 Comments

The shock resignation of Justice Lowell Goddard as chair of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) last week, offered in a perfunctory two-line letter without explanation, followed by a statement that likewise gave little away, initially brought howls of outrage against the New Zealand-based lawyer, claiming victims would see it as a betrayal; but this was soon followed by hints that she had actually been sacked.

My guess is that she was indeed pushed, because her incompetence after 18 months in the job was becoming an unsustainable public embarrassment. She had shown herself to be confused by “local law” i.e. English law, and even fell down on the basic role of a judge during a hearing, failing to invite opposing arguments in the normal way. But there is also reason to believe she was set up to fail. So, was this an Establishment plot, as was immediately alleged by the “survivor” lobby in line with their long-standing devotion to conspiracy theory?

Not exactly. What I have in mind is a conspiracy of just one person, and if you think that is a contradiction in terms you are technically correct, although I was once the sole convicted conspirator in a case of conspiracy to corrupt public morals, so do not underestimate life’s capacity for turning up impossible things!

As for the prime and only suspect in this “plot”, or Machiavellian manoeuvring, we do not need to look far: Theresa May, now Prime Minister, was the Home Secretary responsible for installing Goddard, after the first two incumbents in the job, Baroness Elizabeth Butler-Sloss and Dame Fionna Woolf had both fallen victim to the victim lobby. Both had been seen as Establishment stooges who would guarantee a cover-up of “Westminster VIP paedophilia”, then the obsession of the moment, as celebrity paedos had been immediately post-Savile.

So why would Theresa May want to set up Goddard to fail? Same reason she has given the Three Brexiteers jobs in her government. The referendum vote meant that May, a Remain supporter, has had Brexit foisted on her government. Very well then, let those who got the country into this mess be the ones given the impossible task – as she quite likely sees it – of making it work. When they fail, they will be the ones seen to have failed rather than the Prime Minister. Smart!

The Home Secretary, as she then was, also had a pretty shrewd idea the IICSA was in deep trouble too. As with the referendum result, which she could not defy because it had majority support, she could not simply drop the IICSA either: the powerful victim lobby would have been baying for her blood and would have swept her from office before you could say “lying compo seekers” or “attention-seeking fantasists”. Instead, in a move of stunning cunning, she gave the “survivors” exactly what they wanted, in the full knowledge that far from surviving, they would soon be shipwrecked again.

There is a wealth of evidence for this. Lauded for her careful attention to detail, Theresa May would most assuredly have done due diligence on Goddard. She would have known the New Zealander was not all she was cracked up to be. Superficially she seemed well qualified. You don’t get to be a QC for nothing, she had a long record of supposedly distinguished service on top public bodies, and as a judge her nickname in her home country was God, which suggests a certain level of esteem.

What May would also have known, though, is that Goddard’s high-flying reputation was “earned” not for genuine public service but the exact opposite. As Heretic TOC pointed out when she was given the IICSA gig, a survey of New Zealand judges gave her the lowest possible rating. She was ranked 63rd out of 63! Legal commentator Vince Siemer noted that many lawyers were “extremely critical” of Goddard’s “opportunistic public stances, liberties with the truth and contrarian judgments”. On his website Kiwis First, he said she was widely seen by lawyers as a political puppet – the sort of person who would do the Establishment’s bidding in order to advance her career.

But as Siemer hints, that is precisely what May might have found attractive. She would have understood that Goddard, rather than doing the right thing – which might mean opposing the survivor lobby’s injudicious “always believe the victim” dogma and their demands for an unfeasibly huge, unfocused inquiry – could be relied upon to just go with the flow, even if that inevitably meant eventual disaster. But that wouldn’t matter because by then May would probably have moved on to some other job, such as, oh, I don’t know, Prime Minister or whatever!

Goddard even had “form” with her excuses. In her departure statement, she referred to how hard it had been for her to leave her family behind, as if she had failed to realise, when offered the job, that Britain and New Zealand are on opposite sides of the planet. This was reminiscent of the over-privileged whinging she used in order to advance her earlier career, for Siemer tells us “She was appointed to the Independent Police Conduct Authority after she complained sitting on long cases in the High Court was too stressful on her back.” He continues, “Her days on the IPCA were mired in secrecy, political manoeuvring and tardy rulings.  She routinely sided with Crown immunity, suppression of information and against human rights.”

And, most pertinently, he asked:

So what did the Home Secretary mean when she assured MPs … that Goddard’s Inquiry will not be thwarted by the Official Secrets Act in an investigation which will delve into governmental department files in circumstances where there appears to be complicity by officials in the scandal?  A hint might lie in comments of the ‘fixer’ Home Secretary May has appointed.  “The inquiry will be long, challenging and complex,” forewarned Goddard J.

Experience tells us you can take Goddard J’s assessment to the bank.  Hopefully the British prefer an exhaustive and complex inquiry to an accurate and transparent outcome.

Exhaustive and complex it is certainly set up to be. The sheer immensity of the scale has necessitated the employment of 155 inquiry staff in dedicated offices around the country, dozens of lawyers have been expensively engaged, the projected cost has ballooned to £100 million, and – get this – hundreds of new allegations are arriving each month. The most recent report I have seen puts the figure even higher: the current rate of new allegations being forwarded to the inquiry team, according to the Mail on Sunday, is running at more than 100 a day.

It now looks entirely possible that the volume of allegations could outpace even this huge inquiry’s capacity to deal with them, so the endpoint, originally targeted at 2020, could keep getting further and further into the future. So instead of just one more successor, Goddard could be followed by a whole chain of them, linking from century to century like the kings and queens of England – an absurdity one might think would be terminated by the inevitable death of the victims, and hence their inability to give testimony or be cross-examined. But you never know these days: Jimmy Savile, Lord Janner and others have been pursued beyond the grave, so don’t underestimate the ingenuity of the victims’ descendents. It could all end up like Jarndyce and Jarndyce!

Actually, forget the cross-examination. In addition to the public hearings, the inquiry has set up a “Truth Project”, enabling anyone claiming to be “victims and survivors of child sexual abuse to share their experiences with the Inquiry. Their accounts will not be tested, challenged, or contradicted.” In true Orwellian style, the inquiry will thus facilitate fantasy but call it truth!

The inquiry is supposed to be investigating a range of institutions, including local authorities, the police, the Crown Prosecution Service, the Immigration Service, the BBC, the armed forces, schools, hospitals, children’s homes, churches, mosques and other religious organisations, charities and voluntary organisations, regulators and other public and private institutions. The inquiry’s website tells us “It will also examine allegations of child sexual abuse involving well known people, including people in the media, politics, and other aspects of public life.” It will consider historic allegations going back to 1945. Whew! Even just reading the list is exhausting, never mind investigating it.

The opening session of the IISCA, which has yet to hear any actual evidence after 18 months, involved preliminaries concerning alleged abuse within the Anglican Church. Those present heard that the Archbishops’ Council alone had handed over 7,000 “items of disclosure”. According to one press report, this would be “a mere drop in the ocean of paperwork”. Ben Emmerson QC, the Counsel to the Inquiry, warned that “There are 100,000 items in the archive, which mostly comprises individual children’s files, and some 26,000 boxes of material held in locations around the country.”

This is utter madness. What on earth is supposed to be the point? It has nothing to do with justice. The inquiry is passing new allegations to the police, but that course is always open to complainants anyway. As for institutions, rather than enabling them to learn lessons from past mistakes, probing ever deeper into their history will only reveal what is abundantly known already: the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there. As Luke Gittos wrote in Spiked, the IICSA seems to be just an extremely expensive form of therapy for disturbed people – disturbed for all sorts of reasons, not necessarily past sexual abuse – who want someone to talk to and make them feel important.

That might be a valuable exercise were it not for its huge cost, not only in terms of its massive commandeering of resources but also because it is even more grievously expensive in another way. The inquiry’s work, like the black farce recently seen in the disastrous police investigations of alleged VIP paedophilia, is likely to come at the expense of innocent people. It is bad enough when the reputations of deceased individuals such as former Prime Minister Edward Heath and former Home Secretary Leon Brittan, are baselessly trashed; this dangerously undermines confidence in public life as well as causing needless distress to families and friends. And it is far worse when it wrecks the lives and careers of the living, such as the unfortunate former MP Harvey Proctor, who has called for the IICSA to be dismantled, saying the inquiry was “in thrall to every fantasist alive”.

Even the mainstream media are now beginning to take the point. As David Rose, writing in the Mail on Sunday, put it:

It is a truth that if publicity is given to allegations that a famous person once committed acts of sexual abuse, many others will pile in with similar claims. Some may be genuine, but the multi-million-pound industry run by lawyers seeking damages for abuse ‘survivors’ has established a strong financial motive for those prepared to lie. And where police, politicians, and, yes, public inquiries have made clear that their bias is towards ‘believing the victims’, there is little risk of such perjury being exposed.

Your Honour, I rest my case.

 

NOT JUST YOUR AVERAGE SURVEY

The plethora of investigations into “child sexual abuse” (CSA) is matched by a torrent of surveys on the subject. Here in the UK most of them seem to be published by the NSPCC in its annual report, which I swear comes out monthly.

But the latest survey, by the respected Office for National Statistics (ONS), is far more authoritative and will be worth studying carefully. So for that reason I will make no comment on the figures at present but simply say that they are being touted as “the first official estimates of their kind in the world”. They are based on asking adults to recall sexual encounters experienced during their childhood.

The ONS survey asked about all kinds of abuse, not just sexual. That is good, and there is no problem, in theory at least, with the definition of “abuse” that is used in relation to sexual encounters. The report quite properly defines abuse in terms of harm. It quotes approvingly a definition taken from a document called Working Together to Safeguard Children, which  defines abuse as: “A form of maltreatment of a child. Somebody may abuse or neglect a child by inflicting harm, or by failing to act to prevent harm.” Turning specifically to sexual abuse, the survey includes “sexual assault by an adult”, which is further specified as “sexual assault by rape or penetration (including attempts)” and also “other sexual assault – this includes indecent exposure and unwanted touching/kissing of a sexual nature” [My emphasis].

Here is the problem: it seems no questions were asked about wanted or acceptable sexual contacts. Unless that possibility is spelled out, what is the respondent supposed to report? My guess is that most would feel they were meant to report any sexual contact with an adult, even if it was desired, based on the fact that below the age of consent their willing participation does not amount to legally valid consent. Thus I suspect that the figures would only be truly meaningful if accompanied by the respondent’s own personal rating of the contact, perhaps on a scale ranging from “Very negative” to “Very positive”.

Judicial self-delusion on a global scale

18 Comments

“Britain’s worst paedophile,” we learned earlier this month, “who abused up to 200 Malaysian children and posted videos of his depraved acts online has been given 22 life sentences.”

The Daily Mail version of a news story splashed globally said “Richard Huckle, from Ashford in Kent, admitted an unprecedented number of offences against children aged between six months and 12 years from 2006 to 2014.”

The judge, Peter Rook QC, was quoted: “You had become consumed with paedophilia. Your life revolved around your obsession with your own sexual gratification”.

We heard that as Huckle, aged 30,  was taken down to the cells, a woman sitting in the public gallery yelled: “A thousand deaths is too good for you.”

The Mail’s Richard Spillett reported that Huckle had “masqueraded as a devout Christian, photographer and English teacher to prey on poor children in Kuala Lumpur over nine years.

A stream of pictures and videos of his rapes and assaults on children were shared with paedophiles worldwide through an encrypted website.”

Huckle, it was said,  committed offences in orphanages and care homes in Malaysia and Cambodia, including “rape and assault against up to 200 pre-pubescent children as young as six months old”.

Britain’s worst paedophile? If it were clear he had been violently raping infants I wouldn’t dispute the claim, especially if the guy had also been a sadistic child murderer. But this is surely not a scenario where a large penis has been rammed into a small orifice, and there is mercifully no need for post-mortems. There is no hint in the court reports that any of his acts were violent, coerced or physically injurious.

On the contrary, Richard Huckle appears to have been welcome in the communities of the South East Asian countries where he lived. He didn’t just ““masquerade” as an English teacher: he obviously was an English teacher; there is nothing to suggest he was a less than sincere Christian either.

We will come back later to the unfortunate Mr Huckle, after switching our focus to another recent news story from the same region, the Philippines. The Guardian’s main headline was “How child sexual abuse became a family business in the Philippines”, with a sub-heading “Tens of thousands of children believed to be victims of live-streaming abuse, some of it being carried out by their own parents”. The United Nations is reported as saying that in some areas, entire communities live off the business.

There is the usual hyperbolic bollocks about the scale of the money involved and talk of children being “made to perform around the clock” as though they are sweat shop slaves – places that are really abusive but which go unregulated because global corporations like GAP, Zara and Primark profit from them. Anyway, despite all the spin designed to create a false impression, this was a big story – literally so, as the Guardian’s account ran to well over 2,000 words.

Yet the tabloids ignored it. Why? Because it was complicated. It was nuanced. Unlike the Huckle case, this one could not be made to fit the simple Evil Monster narrative. But it is precisely in the detail and the nuance that the real significance of the story is to be discerned. So let’s look at that.

We are told an undercover agent infiltrated an impoverished village pretending to be a Filipina sex worker earning her living in Japan. It was cover that enabled her to become friendly with the villagers and their children without arousing suspicion. After discovering the kids were doing webcam sessions police raided the village. This was back in 2011. At least one family were caught with their pants down, and that’s more than a metaphor: three girls were naked on a bed while their mother was typing on a keyboard in the same room, where a live webcam feed on the computer screen showed the faces of three white men watching the action.

After the raid, the family was broken up: all six children were taken away from their home and into a “rescue centre”.

And this is where we get to the heart of the real story: the kids did not feel they had been “rescued” at all. Instead, they felt betrayed by the undercover agent they thought was a friend. While the mother was jailed thanks to having been caught red-handed, and still languishes in prison five years later, the children “proved unwilling to incriminate their parents”.

The police were quite candid. They said they thought the children would welcome the operation, only to discover they were very much mistaken. Referring to the oldest child, the undercover agent herself admitted the girl felt betrayed, saying  “I know that she is angry with me”.

At the “rescue” centre, the six children – three boys and three girls –  “appeared oblivious to the fact that they had been exploited”. The three-year-old, it was reported, continued to do “sexualised dancing” in front of other children. A psychologist said that the eldest child, a boy of 16, was in shock after the arrest, but not from the abuse: “He was quite traumatised by the rescue operation.”

The Guardian story continues:

The two younger daughters had no idea that the abuse was anything but normal. “They said it was a business in the neighbourhood. It seemed natural to be involved in this as the other children were doing it,” she said. Police found that it was the children who first heard about live-streaming as a money maker when playing with their friends.

While the children have flourished – on the wall are photos of them, the two eldest beaming while wearing graduation hats and gowns – they are still unable, five years later, to understand the crime…

…The social workers, doctors, police, legal team and psychologists working with the children initially assumed they were trying to protect their parents out of love. But it became apparent there were other reasons for them holding back, especially the eldest.

And in therapy sessions, the eldest boy said their lives had changed for the better since they started the “shows”: the family had more money, they could eat at the local fast food chain Jollibee, and their mother could stop working in a factory.

Slowly, what had happened became apparent. “They saw the neighbours making money. They suggested it to their parents,” the prosecutor said. And at 13, it was Nicole who spoke to the paedophiles online, not her mother.

There were even times when the children did it without their parents present, the prosecutor said.

Bearing in mind this active engagement of the children as free agents, it’s time to get back to Mr Huckle.

Based on the grooming theme, and on the so-called abuse of trust, James Traynor from the National Crime Agency said: “Richard Huckle spent several years integrating himself into the community in which he lived, making himself a trusted figure.”

Now the thing is, you don’t get to be integrated and trusted unless people know and like you, including the children. We are told that Huckle dreamed of marrying one of his victims so they could jointly become foster carers for children. That was never going to happen without the continuing support of the community and of a woman who wanted to marry him. It is not as though he was betraying anyone’s trust as a fraudster does, conning them out of their money and making life worse. He was not making life worse. In the children’s view he was making it better, and who can really argue with them? Well-heeled western do-gooders who have no idea how tough and limiting Third World poverty can be?

Looking at it realistically, it would also be naïve to assume he was deceiving anyone. You cannot betray trust if a community already knows what is going on, as is clearly the case in the Philippines where families are actively involved on a significant scale. Huckle claimed in his own defence that sexual involvement with children was “endemic” in the region. The judge brushed this aside as being no excuse, but he did not deny the fact of the matter; he preferred to turn a blind eye, but that is no reason for us to do so.

The judge was also scornful of a 60-page manual Huckle had written and planned to publish online called Paedophiles and Poverty: Child Love Guide, which is said to have been about how to select deprived victims and avoid detection. The judge described it as a “truly evil document”, saying “It speaks volumes about the scale of your self-delusion, describing your conduct as child love.”

As we have just seen, though, it was the judge, not the defendant, who set his face against the facts. He is the one deluding himself if he thinks that children’s sexual “innocence” is anything more than a self-serving myth concocted by those who seek to control them. He deludes himself, too, if he dismisses Kind people as necessarily unkind and incapable of loving children, especially when the evidence suggests, as in Richard Huckle’s case, that he was well liked by the kids and was well regarded in the communities where he lived and worked for many years.

Not that Heretic TOC is suggesting Huckle should be imitated. Absolutely the opposite. The message from the courts is loud and clear: do as he did and you will be crucified, no matter what the rights and wrongs of the matter. The sentence, after all, was savage. Decades, at least, will pass before this tragically-fated young man has any hope of release.

Nor should we ignore the fact that his “how to” guide was so excoriated by the court. One shudders to think what the judge would make of Heretic TOC’s heresies. There is a big difference, though: it looks possible that the Child Love Guide could well have been interpreted in some quarters as inciting its readers to break the law; and so, once it was published, that could have amounted to grounds for a criminal prosecution in itself. This site, by contrast, much as we wish to see radical changes in our culture and law, emphatically rejects the view that the present laws should be defied. Apologies for finishing on this dreary but necessary note.

 

FROM BREXIT TO REGREXIT IN ONE DISMAL DAWN

Within sterling and the stock market plummeting and voices of alarm coming thick and fast from all around the planet, dawn had scarcely broken on the result of the Brexit referendum before the demos was thrown into doubt.

Suddenly the sovereign people’s distrust of the experts was turned on themselves, as they woke up to the awful possibility that they might have got it wrong. What a shame most of them hadn’t read Heretic TOC, where they would have learned that the people are always wrong!

Proof of the unpreparedness of many to make such a momentous and complicated decision was all too apparent, albeit too late: the most frequent Google search was the alarmingly basic question “What is the EU?” Many tweeted to say they hadn’t thought their vote would be all that important, what with so many other people voting! They had just wanted to tell the politicians they were fed up. It hadn’t occurred to them they might actually win, and now they regretted it!

This Buyer’s Remorse, or Regrexit as it was quickly dubbed, even appeared to be shared by politicians leading the Leave campaign. Instead of simply obeying the will of the people and getting on with getting out, the ruling elite on both sides of the great debate are effectively saying hang on a minute (or a few years), let’s not be hasty. Maybe we can fudge things a bit (or a lot) so that we can somehow keep free access to the EU market while also quietly ditching our promise to the people that immigration would be controlled. Plus ça change…

 

 

Latin lovers versus British bum bandits

47 Comments

The web of suspicion, stigma, bureaucratic regulations and punitive laws that “protects” minors today from unauthorized contacts with adults has become a form of age apartheid as ugly and in-yer-face as the razor-wire fences thrown up across Europe to keep out refugees – and many of us, including one recent commentator here, might feel this web is much more effective than the fences.

Thwarted in his attempts to be sociable, never mind sexual, across the age divide, Sapphocidaire is sceptical there are many youngsters who would welcome relationships with anyone more than a few years older. I had responded to a post by “A”, saying “… I gather a lot of underage gay boys are now using Grindr to meet men.” Not true, insisted Sapphocidaire, saying gay boys online are for the most part actively hostile to paedophiles. The GYC was better years ago, “which is why it was shut down and then reintroduced with age constrictions by relative groupings”.

Yes, times have changed quite drastically, even within a decade or so. But was I wrong about Grindr? My information comes from someone who knows what he is talking about. This is Darren, a mid-thirties guy who introduced himself on Sexnet last year as a former rent boy from the UK, sexually active from 11 and a prostitute by 14 in the 1990s. Also a cypherpunk with a science background, he has latterly been working on some projects relating to sexual offending and sex offender laws, and says he has been “alarmed at the increasing ways in which homosexual youth are being dragged before the courts both as victims and offenders in recent times in the west”.

“As gay sex went online, the boys followed,” he tells us, adding that in the late 1990s gay.com allowed 13-year-olds to register.

The gay scene argot for inter-generational sex is called Daddies and Sons, apparently, although I don’t think there is any rule that it actually has to be a family thing! Indeed, if the term were meant to be interpreted literally, it would need to be Daddies and Granddads, because the younger party is supposed to be legally of age and hence old enough to be a Dad himself. But Darren assures us that there are 15-year-olds on Grindr who are looking for “daddy”. “Grindr,” he says, “includes daddy as an option in what you are looking for.”

Can we put numbers on it? Darren has attempted to, using an indirect method rather than contacting any of these youngsters, which would have been legally fraught with peril. He came up with a substantial figure but on reflection I am not convinced. The numbers looked low in relation to  the huge area and population in question, and some of the “youths” may actually have been law enforcement agents.

For genuinely strong 21st century data (albeit pre-Grindr) on young gay boys willingly getting into relationships with gay men we need to go somewhat further afield, to North and South America, starting with Latin American communities, first in New York and then in Campinas, a city of over 1mn in south eastern Brazil. Common to both of these Latin studies is Alex Carballo-Dieguez, a professor of medical psychology at Columbia University and also a researcher into the prevention of HIV transmission. This research focus is highly significant. Funding institutions hate supporting any work that makes sex sound pleasant, especially where minors are concerned. An emphasis on disease and other dangers is much preferred.

The upside of this, however, is that when the main point of your research is HIV you are allowed to go where other researchers are forbidden, and to report facts honestly that would otherwise in effect be censored. This is because controlling and eradicating life-threatening sexually transmitted disease is a really serious business: even the influential moralisers who prefer to sweep the pleasant side of sex under the carpet know that fighting the spread of disease requires good data on people’s sexual motives and behaviour.

In 2002 Curtis Dolezal, with Alex Carballo-Dieguez as co-author, published a paper called “Childhood sexual experiences and the perception of abuse among Latino men who have sex with men”. The title is worth dwelling on. The first point is the reference to childhood sexual experiences, a term that does not predefine the contact as abuse. That is because the authors want to know about the feelings (or “perception”) of these guys themselves as they look back to their childhood: they get to say for themselves whether or not they think their early experience was abuse. Secondly, “men who have sex with men” are not necessarily gay, hence the precise but unwieldy term.

In this study of 307 Latino men in New York City,  recruited from bars, dance clubs, parades, AIDS service organizations, community centres, public parks, etc., 100 of them (predominately gay) were found to have had childhood sexual experiences with an older partner (CSEOP):

If any partner was 4 years older and had sexual contact with the participant prior to his 13th birthday, the participant met criteria [for CSEOP]. One hundred men met our criteria for CSEOP. The median age of the first such experience was 8.5 and the partner was, on average, 9 years older.

The authors conclude that since a third of the sample reported childhood sexual experiences with an older partner, “these experiences cannot be considered rare or isolated occurrences for this population”. Asked whether they considered their experiences sexual abuse, 59 of the men said yes but a substantial minority, 41 said no.

Dolezal and Carballo-Dieguez also say:

Each participant was asked why they did or did not consider the event(s) to be sexual abuse. For those who did consider it sexual abuse, over half of the men referred to their age (e.g., “I was a child,” “I was too young,” and “A child doesn’t know what he is doing”). The next most common response had to do with volition (e.g., “It was done without my consent,” “It was against my will,” and “I was forced to do things”). The men who did not consider the event to be abuse also frequently referred to their volition, with approximately two thirds stating that it was consensual and that they were not forced into the situation. Several felt that they had actually initiated the experience (e.g., “It was my initiative,” “I was the one who went out for it,” and “I exposed myself in front of him and provoked him.” More common responses simply stated that they agreed to the encounter(s) (e.g., “I agreed to everything,” “I was consenting,” and “I was curious, I wanted to do it”).

One participant was 10 when he had sexual contact on 20 occasions over 3 months with a 25-year-old male neighbour. The events involved mutual masturbation and oral sex. The participant did not feel coerced or hurt and did not feel it was sexual abuse “because I seduced the neighbour.”

Carballo-Dieguez, who incidentally has worked with the renowned Theo Sandfort, also undertook the research referred to above in Campinas, Brazil. Published in 2011, this study of 575 participants (85% men and 15% transgender), showed 32% reporting childhood sexual experiences with an older partner. Mean age at first experience was 9 years.

So the prevalence rate and age at first experience were both very similar to the New York-based study. But the men’s perceptions were strikingly different. Only 29% of the participants who had had such childhood sexual experiences considered it abuse; 57% reported liking, 29% being indifferent and only 14% not liking the sexual experience at the time it happened. Although both populations were of Latin Americans, it looks as though the New York ones had been influenced to a far greater extent than their Brazilian counterparts by sentiment against “child abuse”, which is perhaps at its strongest in the US, the UK and the wider anglosphere.

I started out by exploring whether gay boys in contemporary society, with implicit reference to the English-speaking countries, are seeking out gay men for sex online. Inevitably, with hard data difficult to come by, I’ve had to rely on studies that nearly answer the question but not quite: the Latin research tells us about boys’ early experiences but without telling us much as to whether they initially knew they wanted sex with men and deliberately went after it or whether – as we must suspect given the early average starting age – they typically had no such clear agenda, and were found by the older partner rather than them doing the finding. Maybe, like Darren, most of them would soon have come to realise they were gay in any case, and would have sought out the gay scene in their early teens.

What we have stumbled upon by focusing on studies of gay men, though, may be something even more important than the original question. The most significant thing of all is not how relationships get started but whether any value is put upon them; and, if not, whether it is only the pressure of cultural hostility that is causing a negative evaluation.

Jessica Stanley and her colleagues surveyed the “age-discrepant childhood sexual experiences” of 192 gay and bisexual men living in Vancouver, British Columbia, who were recruited from a randomly selected community sample. This research team also took an interest in the men’s own perceptions. From the data, published in 2004, Stanley et al. were able to conclude that  “Those who reported consensual sex with older partners described their experiences as neutral or positive, whereas those who were coerced had greater adjustment problems including difficulties with competitiveness, coldness, expressiveness, and general interpersonal problems.”

It’s what we would intuitively expect, isn’t it? But this sort of investigation is so rare it is worth trumpeting. I’ll conclude with another done in connection with AIDS prevention: Sonya Arreola et al., 2008.

This study examined differential effects of forced, consensual, and no childhood sexual experiences (CSE) on health outcomes among a sample of adult men who have sex with men in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and New York. 2881 telephone interviews were conducted. Unsurprisingly, the forced sex group had the highest levels of psychological distress, substance use, and HIV risk. The report says:

Interestingly, the forced sex group and the no sex group were statistically indistinguishable in their level of well-being, while the consensual sex group was significantly more likely to have a higher level of well-being than either of the other two groups. This suggests that consensual sex before 18 years of age may have a positive effect, perhaps as an adaptive milestone of adolescent sexual development.

Crucially, the study acknowledges that children and adolescents have voluntary sexual relationships with men, even finding that the voluntary variety (34%) were more than twice as common as forced ones (16%) among those surveyed. Amazingly, a public education guide based on these and related positive findings was government funded, via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Back to contemporary reality in the UK. According to Darren, “Grindr is a hideous app that has taken us right back to the days of cottaging”. He feels the present scene has not stopped adolescent initiation into the world of adult gay sex, but has constrained it to being a furtive, seedy, guilt-ridden business for both the younger and older party. Like “cottaging” in dingy public toilets, often the only way for gays to meet in the bad old days, it is a scenario for swift fuck-and-flee sessions filled with self-loathing and mutual contempt – no place for Kind people or the real boy love that a chico in Brazil might find.

Apps such as Grindr, and the more relationship-oriented Blendr, should enable people to come together across the age divide for friendship, relationships and love, as well as encounters of a casual but also respectful type. Alas, the countervailing pressure exerted by stigma and aggressive, hostile, policing mean that the good side – so strikingly shown to be a possibility in the research discussed above – is crushed out of existence and only the bad remains. Instead of Latin Lovers we have British Bum Bandits.

 

A rare escape, without bribery or bloodshed

78 Comments

In An Open Letter to the Labour Party recently, I revealed that the official reason given for my expulsion from the party with no possibility of defending myself was because the party had learned, apparently from a Daily Mail report last month, that I had been convicted in December of a “serious offence”.

My priority last time, as the “Open Letter” title suggests, was to focus on the Labour Party. I drew upon the thinking of radical leftists, from Friedrich Engels on the family to Roy Jenkins on the “permissive society”, to explain why I had become a member and why I thought the party should think again before repudiating the socially liberal strand within its own tradition. Fat chance of that, I fear, although I note that leader Jeremy Corbyn is now publicly saying prostitution should be legalised, thereby infuriating his own more censorious MPs. Well done Jez!

This focus of mine on politics meant I could only briefly touch upon the “serious offence” in question. It is now time to put the record straight. Heretics here know better than to take mainstream media monsterings of Kind people at face value, so thank you everyone for taking it all in your stride and waiting patiently for me to begin.

As I briefly indicated in the Open Letter blog, I was intimately involved with a 10-year-old boy in the 1970s. Recently, in December, his adult incarnation testified at a trial in Caernarfon, Wales. A Daily Mail report said I had “narrowly escaped jail” last year after “preying” on the boy and his 9-year-old brother.

The question that will leap to mind is how could I possibly have got off scot free, with no time whatever behind bars? In today’s savagely punitive climate, “predatory” offences against children are routinely attracting prison terms into double figures, including a whopping 35 years, no less, for the “ringleader” in the Rotherham “grooming” case last month.

So how did I “escape”? Did I bribe the judge? Did I whip out a smuggled gun, leaving a trail of bloodied corpses as I blasted a way clear of the courtroom?

There is another explanation, one the Daily Mail was understandably coy about because it failed to fit their preferred narrative. The real reason I left the court a free man is that neither the judge, nor the prosecution, nor crucially even the “victims” themselves, appeared to have seen me as callously “predatory”. Which might leave you wondering why this “historic abuse ” case came to court at all after nearly forty years.

All will be revealed.

First, we need to take ourselves back all those years, to 1977 and a very different social climate. As a young man then, I worked for a while as a group leader at an outdoor activities camp for kids, in Wales. One of the youngsters in my charge was a nine-year-old boy I will call Adam (other names will be changed too). Unlike some of the other kids, who were with their school mates or a sibling, Adam was on his own. He latched onto me, and during his week’s stay we became fond of each other. At the end of the week he gave me his address – I hadn’t asked for it – and he invited me to come and meet his family sometime.

A year later I did. It would have been about August when I met his parents at the family’s country home, and also his younger brother, Zac. By now Adam was 10 and Zac 9. These were by no means “vulnerable” children from a disadvantaged background. Quite the contrary. Their father, Sebastian, headed a significant organisation and was later knighted for his services. Their mother, Cassandra, was a highly cultured woman. The privately educated brothers now in their mid-forties, are doing well in their own careers, with families of their own ranging from young adult to early teens. They are in good shape, too: tall, slim, handsome. Adam’s relaxed warmth is still apparent. Zac has style, a touch of rock star glamour.

I felt I got on well with the whole family at that first meeting, an impression borne out by the fact that a couple of months later I was allowed to take Adam and Zac for a week’s hiking based at a holiday cottage in Snowdonia. We had a great time. Cassandra’s diary from all those years ago was an exhibit in the case. Her entry, when the boys arrived back home, records that they went straight off to some friends to tell them “what a fantastic holiday they had had.”

Adam, the only witness in the trial, had plenty of good things to say about me. I had seemed “a really nice guy” when we first met, an impression that did not change. He remembered the week at the cottage not just for the mountain walking, which he enjoyed, but also the fun. He liked my humour. There was plenty of joking and laughter. I was always “very respectful” towards him. He told the court I had been “very charming”.

He had not been sexually unwilling either. At age of seven or eight an older boy had introduced him to “wanking”, and he needed no further encouragement. When he did this quite openly at the cottage, naked and in full view of his brother and me, he had not objected when I became intimate with him. He didn’t feel pressured into anything. He did not feel he had been harmed in any way.

Asked in court if such activity might unconsciously affect a willing child participant, he agreed that it could: it might cause them to grow up with ultra-liberal sexual views without knowing why! This was as close as Adam came to saying why he eventually gave a statement to the police more than six months after Zac had done so. Zac, it is clear, was the prime mover in the case. He never claimed I touched him sexually, but on the basis that he saw me in a sexual situation I eventually admitted gross indecency towards him.

Zac, it has to be said, was always a very different character to Adam. Both were great kids. But, unlike Adam, Zac was just not physical. Whereas Adam loved to hold hands and snuggle close, Zac preferred to keep his distance. I thought I respected that. But not enough, apparently. He was the one who brought matters to the attention of the police. He claims to have suffered erectile dysfunction and marital problems as a result of his childhood encounter with my sexuality. I do not doubt his sincerity. I am sure he has suffered the issues he mentions but do not think they can reasonably be attributed to any aspect of his time with me.

The fact is that people with all sorts of problems, not just sexual ones but also drugs, gambling, business failure, you name it, are apt to look for a scapegoat. We all try to blame our woes on something beyond ourselves. In recent decades the scapegoat of choice has been childhood sexual abuse. Even people who were never “abused” will go to therapists, desperate to be told that they were, because that would “explain” everything.

Fortunately for me, Zac was not vindictive.  As part of his victim impact statement in court, he said he did not wish to see me punished. As for his testimony as a witness, that was not needed. Following Adam’s testimony, word reached me through my barrister that changing my initial Not Guilty pleas to Guilty (indecent assault against Adam and gross indecency towards Zac) would result in a suspended sentence, and I accepted that.

So, if Zac had not been out to punish me, what did he want? His written prosecution statement was very revealing. What prompted him to make his complaint against me was not just what happened on a very enjoyable holiday in 1978 but what was going on in the media in 2014 shortly before he went to the police. Specifically, he objected to what a TV news bulletin had reported me as saying about paedophilia at a time when PIE’s supposed political connections were under the media spotlight. He wrote:

“What concerns me is that paedophiles may have read his book or his online blogs and used that information to justify their own actions.”

In other words, he was bidding to use a criminal prosecution in order to shut me up. His ideological motivation is to be seen even more clearly in a remarkable admission: until several years after the holiday he “felt no resentment” towards me and “probably thought upon him as a nice guy”.

That changed only after I went to prison in 1981 for conspiracy to corrupt public morals. He knew about this because his mother told him. She had found out from the Guardian. Nothing surprising about that. What might astonish many now, though, is that Cassandra’s response was remarkably civilized: she wrote a very kind letter to me in prison and received me at the family home again when I came out in 1982. By this time she had even dipped into my book Paedophilia: The Radical Case. I had given her a copy before the public morals trial, in part at least because I felt she and her husband should learn about my philosophy through my own words rather than media distortions. She showed no sign of agreeing with my views but had the grace to say she thought my position was well argued.

Whereas Cassandra was calm and compassionate, resolutely refusing to be freaked out, her newly teenage son Zac started to take a much dimmer view in ’82 and has continued to do so. In his victim statement he said his object was to dissuade me from encouraging others to break the law. Regular readers of Heretic TOC will know that I absolutely do not do that and could be prosecuted if I did. But Zac appears to have been under a different impression.

The judge, in his sentencing remarks, quite properly emphasised that I was entitled to express my views. He seemed genuinely puzzled, though. He could see just from my bearing in the dock that I was deeply upset by the case. So he knew I was very much taking to heart everything that was said, including Zac’s own emotional statement as to the pain and distress I had caused to him and his family. What was going through the judge’s mind, plainly, was the paradox of my sincere response to Zac’s certainty that I caused harm, combined with the fact that I had given no indication that I intended to stop blogging, or otherwise speaking out publicly in ways that Zac feels are wrong and dangerous.

Through my barrister, I had said  that if I had known in 1978 what I know now, I would not have behaved as I did. It was an honest statement. When we defy the law we put children at grave risk of growing up feeling they must have been damaged – because our culture virulently insists it is so, on a daily basis – even when that is not how they felt at the time. Only in a culture which has changed so much that it is ready to accept more liberal laws will child-adult sexual relationships be ethically feasible. It is because I refuse to give up on that vision that I continue to write.

Zac said in his written statement that he wanted to “challenge” me. But he has made it impossible for me to answer his challenge. Part of the sentence was a court order preventing me from contacting him or Adam, so I find myself unable to pick up the gauntlet he threw down: I can neither explain myself to him, nor probe his thinking. I find this hugely frustrating. To coin a phrase, it is hard to find closure.

I wish him well, though. Adam too, and Cassandra and Sebastian. They are a remarkable family and I still have fond memories – shattered ones now, but still precious, like shards from a dropped Ming vase.

 

 

Can you tell who he is yet?

36 Comments

Rolf Harris you are 84 years old. You have no previous criminal convictions or cautions recorded against you. You are no longer in the best of health. For well over 50 years you have been a popular entertainer and television personality of international standing – with a speciality in children’s entertainment. You are also an artist of renown. You have been the recipient of a number of honours and awards over the years. You have done many good and charitable works and numerous people have attested to your positive good character.

So began the sentencing remarks by Mr Justice Sweeney at Southwark Crown Court, London, before handing down a prison term of five years and nine months on Harris last week. Unfortunately for the star, who was massive in Britain and his native Australia, the rest of the judge’s 3,000-word speech was to be no encomium. Instead, he rebuked the man in the dock as a serial sex attacker of girls and young women who had abused the trust placed in him as a famous children’s entertainer.

Those who remember the TV shows of his heyday, as I do, will recall a man who was brilliant at his job. A speciality was rapid painting, so his young viewers could see a picture emerging before their very eyes in a matter of moments. “Can you tell what it is yet?” he would ask. It became a catchphrase. In his later years he was taken seriously as an artist, with an exhibition of his work at the National Gallery. In 2006 he was even commissioned to paint a portrait of the Queen on her 80th birthday.

The question for us now is somewhat different. Unlike Jimmy Savile, who was never put on trial, Harris has been found guilty by a jury. But is he really the monster painted by the media in their own post-verdict instant artistry? Can we see who he is yet? There are plenty of reasons to suppose the genre of painting going on here is one of optical illusion, like the famously impossible Escher staircase.

We can look at the Rolph Harris case, just like the staircase, and be struck immediately by an impossible disparity: the offences, even if the jury made correct decisions on the facts, bear no relation to the spin being put upon them.

The main facts are that Harris was convicted of 12 counts of indecent assault committed decades ago, between 1969 and 1986, against four females. These ranged from one-off incidents of groping in public to a long involvement in the life of his daughter Bindi’s best friend (Victim C). The youngest was an eight-year-old girl (Victim A) who asked for his autograph at a public event. He twice put his hand up her skirt and felt her vagina over her underwear.

In a Victim Impact Statement, Victim A said this incident had caused her “physical and mental pain” and that “in the space of a few minutes my childhood innocence was gone”. She said, “I became an angry child unable to express myself and unable to trust men. I took this with me into my teens and did not like to be touched. It made having normal relationships difficult….I have carried what Rolf Harris did to me for most of my life. It took away most of my childhood.”

Victim C and her family were friends with Harris and his family in the mid 1960s. In 1978 when C was aged 13 and Harris was 48 he was allowed by C’s parents to take her on holiday abroad with his wife and Bindi. That is when he started touching her sexually. After the holiday, and while she was still under the age of consent (not that she ever did consent, by her own account) there were further incidents at C’s own home. While his wife and C’s parents were downstairs he went to C’s bedroom upstairs, where he inserted his finger into her vagina, in the words of the judge, “for about a minute until she managed to get away”. Several further such incidents, the last when she was 19, were specified in the indictment, including ones in which he licked her vagina. The judge said to Harris “Whilst I do not sentence you in relation to what you did to C in the decade that followed that offence, I am sure that offences against her continued until 1994.”

Harris also faced four charges of possessing indecent images of children on his computer following a police raid on his home in 2012. This case was dropped following his conviction on the other charges.

So, in summary, we have groping incidents including one against an eight-year-old over her clothing which robbed her of her childhood and has been a cross she has had to bear for the rest of her life. And we have a series of assaults over a period of 16 years against one victim, several of them while her parents were in another room of the same house at the time, until she was 29 years old. And a porn case that was dropped.

Does anything begin to seem a bit unlikely, or even impossible about this, like the Escher staircase? Can you tell what it is yet? I’m guessing you can. But let’s go on. Let’s paint the final brush strokes of the picture.

In her Victim Impact Statement, Bindi’s friend Victim C said, “The attacks…made me feel dirty, grubby and disgusting. The whole sordid saga has traumatised me. I have panic attacks and suffer from anxiety. The effects of the abuse have been with me for many years. I started drinking at the age of 14 to 15 years old. This was to block out the effects of what he was doing to me. This had an effect on my relationship with my parents and people close to me. The slightest thing would upset me, I would get so angry, my reaction would be so disproportionate and over the top. As a young girl I had aspirations to have a career, settle down and have a family. However, as a direct result of his actions, this has never materialised. I have never had a meaningful relationship whilst sober. I have also never been able to hold down a job. This was down to the need to block out what he had done to me through drink. Rolf Harris had a hold over me that made me a quivering wreck….He made me feel like a sexual object. He used and abused me to such an extent that it made me feel worthless…”

So there we have it. Can you see the full pattern and paradox now? The pattern is one of relatively mild sexual impropriety, or even consensual sex with a mature adult: what else can we seriously suppose it to have been when the “assaults” on C continued until she was 29? The paradox is the huge, life-wrecking consequences that are said to have resulted from these acts.

Don’t get me wrong. Sexual harassment should not be tolerated. Heretic TOC is not calling for a groper’s charter. As we have discussed extensively here recently, mutual consent is a basic requirement of legitimate sex at any age. Where the courts and the abuse lobbyists, the politicians and the media are going wrong, however, is in giving too much credence to those who seek to put everything that has gone wrong in their lives down to child sexual abuse (CSA). It is an easy cop out from personal responsibility. One thing often overlooked by those who assume a direct CSA = Lifelong Trauma equation is that lurking in the background of these damaged people’s lives there is often a history of significant trauma and mental instability arising even before the CSA took place. Rind et al., in their famous 1998 meta-analysis showed that chaotic and dysfunctional family background was nine times more predictive of psychological damage in later life than CSA, to which such damage is usually attributed.

The public are also deceived by the utterly false dogma that victims always “courageously” come forward to tell the unvarnished truth, without exaggeration. It is hard to be sure from a short public description, but Victim A in this case said she suffered physical as well as mental pain. Really? From being touched over her underwear in a crowded public place where any cry of pain would surely have attracted attention? One has to wonder. Those who think victims are always honest should catch up on the Somaly Mam scandal, as reported last month in “Victims Can Lie as Much as Other People”.

Back to Rolph. Like Jimmy Savile, he was clearly no saint. A particular grouse of mine would be his hypocrisy. Whereas Savile was astonishingly open about his attraction to young girls, Harris shored up his respectability by presenting a 1985 anti-CSA video for the NSPCC, called Kids Can Say No!

Nor was he great at loyalty: apparently unbeknown to his wife, for several years in the 1990s he kept a mistress at the bottom of his garden!

That wasn’t as uncomfortable for her as it might sound: the lady was installed in a converted boathouse in the grounds of his mansion by the River Thames, and was supposed to be his housekeeper and chauffeur.

So, can we tell who he was yet? Was he the monster the media have painted?

What he was not is a paedophile if we use that term to mean someone preferentially attracted to prepubescent children. His offences point to a degree of hebephilic interest in teenage girls; but with a wife and a long-term adult mistress, his sexuality appears actually to have been rather normal in its direction. It’s just that its expression was a little over-exuberant. Not that this is any excuse: arguably his lapses were worse than those of someone, attracted exclusively to kids, who has no viable alternative outlet for his feelings.

What concerns us more urgently, though, is not whether one particular man meets with our moral approval here at Heretic TOC. It’s the societal response to these big, high-profile cases that counts. For the most part, that response has been really bad news, and we must brace ourselves for much more of the same in the coming weeks and months as the post-Savile cultural revolution cranks itself up to some sort of crescendo.

So much for the big picture. I’ll conclude with a few brief sketches:

 

‘LOVELY TOUCHY-FEELY ROLF’

Amanda Platell, a high-profile journalist, who used to be press secretary to William Hague when he was leader of the Conservative Party, said she had been among Harris’s fans and had invited him to her fortieth birthday party many years ago. Cheekily, she said she was so thrilled to see her childhood hero in the flesh that “I took him upstairs away from my other guests to keep him to myself for a while.” We are left to guess was happened, but she wasn’t complaining! On the other hand, that’s before she knew what a bad boy he could be. But now, she says, “I can deny it no longer: the man I adored betrayed me. More than that, I’ve had to accept that Rolf Harris groomed me, just as meticulously as he did his victims.” How did he do it? By being nice. “Lovely touchy-feely Rolf had this ability to make you feel as though you were the most important person in the world.” The swine!

 

A GRIM LONDON PRISON

Eric Allison, the excellent prisons correspondent of the Guardian and an ex-convict himself, reported that in the big van that would take Harris and other prisoners from the court to prison (HMP Wandsworth), Harris would be “insulted mercilessly by the other occupants of the sweatbox. At the grim south London jail, he will be segregated during the reception process although he will still hear torrents of abuse for his indecent assault of young girls.” As an old man, he would be put in the hospital wing, where patients “tend to be medicated during the day when they can present control problems, but left drug-free to scream and shout throughout the long nights.” This sounds bleak, and the scenario may have unfolded just as Allison says. But Harris should be OK if he can get out of healthcare and into the Vulnerable Prisoners Unit (VPU) which is the usual destination for anyone in need of protection from the hostility of other inmates – which these days means mainly sex offenders, quite a lot of them almost as old as Harris. I know, because I was there myself. In fact I was tried at Southwark Crown Court like Harris too. Ah, happy memories – not!

 

NEXT SCANDAL: THE PAEDO POLITICIANS

News of fresh craziness in the cultural revolution keeps coming in so thick and fast that my last item here would be my lead story if this were a daily newspaper: a big scandal broke in the Sunday papers yesterday, when they reported that the British Home Office has confessed to losing or destroying 114 “potentially relevant” files relating to “the paedophile scandal engulfing Westminster” i.e. allegations that “paedophilia on an industrial scale” was rife among top politicians in the 1970s and 80s. This story is certain to get even bigger in the coming week and beyond. I got wind of it last week when the main broadcasting outfits (BBC’s Today programme and ITN) plus the Daily Mail contacted me to ask if I could tell them anything about naughty deeds in high places back in the day. Sadly, being more familiar with low places I had to disappoint them!

 

STOP PRESS

The very latest, Daily Telegraph this morning:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/comment/10948796/Paedophilia-is-natural-and-normal-for-males.html

Heretic TOC is quoted. Looks like I’m adding to the problem, rather than solving it. Should I stop writing this blog?

A dam smart way to divert attention

Leave a comment

The Itaipu Dam, which I visited this week, was dubbed one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World by the American Society of Civil Engineers 20 years ago, following the project’s opening a decade earlier in 1984.

I agree. It is unquestionably an immense and marvellous engineering triumph, generating sufficient hydro-electric power to supply nearly 20% of Brazil’s electricity and 90% of Paraguay’s, drawing on a vast quantity of water from the Parana River that marks the border between the two countries. In terms of electricity generated, it still beats the mighty Three Gorges Dam in China.

It also generates extraordinary statistics: the overflow slipway is capable of carrying 40 times the water volume of the nearby Iguacu Falls, which is itself the world’s second biggest waterfall by volume of water – and also a tremendous spectacle, as I can now personally attest. The amount of concrete used would be enough to build 210 football stadiums the size of the Maracanã in Rio de Janeiro, the iron and steel used would allow for the construction of 380 Eiffel Towers. It is also the biggest… well, you get the idea. Heretic TOC is not a gee whiz Big Stuff site, so I’ll spare you the full verbal tour.

I will just mention one aspect of the generally excellent tour I was given, though: an introductory video shown to visitors. This, too, in its way, was also one of the Wonders of the Modern World, conveying the most impressively comprehensive propaganda to which I have ever personally been subjected: it surely has to be considered right up there with the works of Goebbels and his equivalents in the Communist regimes of Stalin and Mao.

How so? Well, first there was the truly epic story of the dam’s construction, with a barrage of all those impressive and no doubt accurate statistics. But then we were treated to an increasingly grandiose sequence of wider claims: the dam has been the catalyst for scientific and medical research; it is to be the site of a new international university; it has inspired the development of an electric car; it has been the focus of educational projects from primary school level to adult literary; it benefits the indigenous tribal populations; it is fostering biological diversity, working towards international environmental targets, combating climate change. It is even – wait for it – committed to ending the sexual abuse of children! A dam, would you believe, an immense pile of concrete and rocks, has taken upon itself to protect the little ones!

Quite how the dam proposes to achieve this aim was never spelt out but I suppose it could imitate the god of the Israelites, unleashing a tsunami down that mighty slipway to flood the cities of the plain beneath, drowning all the abusers (and all the “protected” children!), sealing their fate like that of the sinners in Sodom and Gomorrah!

I am reliably informed by a long-time American expat here who has excellent Portuguese that the Brazilian media these days are just as crazily dominated by anti-CSA propaganda as in the Anglophone world. Arguably it is even worse. I doubt, for instance, that a government information film in Britain about, say, a new nuclear power programme would mention CSA. Neither do we see anti-CSA posters in public squares, as I have here in Brazil.

When cultural imperialism gathers momentum, it seems, its expression can be even more extreme than the original source, as though trying to outdo its tutors. A similar phenomenon occurred after British missionaries went to Africa in the 19th century, where they preached against native homosexual practices that had long been culturally accepted. The Christian churches in the effected countries are now virulently ant-gay, even though the mother church back in England has changed completely and is now pro-gay!

A key feature of propaganda like the Itaipu film, of course, is that it diverts attention from unwelcome truths, in an exercise as consciously and carefully engineered as the initial diversion of the river being dammed. Boasting about work to promote biological diversity and so forth distracts from considering all the diversity lost under the vast new reservoir created by the dam; while you’re blathering on about CSA you’re not mentioning the ten thousand people who lost their homes under the water; and you can even get away with saying not a word about the extraordinary environmental vandalism this particular dam project entailed. Its creation necessitated drowning the Guaíra Falls, which had been the world’s largest waterfall by volume (though Niagara might contest this). The Brazilian government liquidated (literally!) the Guaíra Falls National Park, and dynamited the submerged rock face where the falls had been in order to foil any future attempt at restoration.

I say all this simply because I am in Brazil at the moment. Fellow Anglophone heretics will no doubt be reminded of CSA’s usefulness to our own governments: when they have something to hide (which is all too often!) they can always promote a grotesquely ill-thought out, non-evidence-based, crackdown against CSA and “paedophilia”.

PS: Briefly, as I have a plane to catch, I guess I should mention a rather less interesting propaganda issue than the Itaipu dam film. The Daily Mail has emailed me several times in the last few days asking for a comment on their latest misleading crap about supposed Labour support for PIE in the 1970s.

I see no point in responding, as anything I say would merely serve as another angle to keep the story going.

Not that they need my help. They have already run the story in various versions before, and will no doubt do so again at the slightest excuse, whether they have anything new to say or not. They know what keeps their punters happy, so they cannot be accused of incompetence in terms of generating sales. However, so far as this particular repetitious saga is concerned they are beginning to resemble the Daily Express, which constantly recycles a handful of stories (death of Princess Diana, disappeared toddler Madeleine McCann, miracle cure for arthritis, stormy weather ahead) to its elderly readership, who are presumably so far gone in senility they cannot remember they read the same thing only a few days before.

The Mail can take the downmarket Express route if they wish. It may be successful in sales terms, but it is hardly a recipe for respected journalism.

%d bloggers like this: