Paedophiles exist. It is a cold, hard fact that there are people walking around today who want to take advantage of children.
It is a fact that many people must have known about and covered up Jimmy Savile’s continued and systematic abuse of untold numbers of vulnerable children. This strikes me as the most depressing reality of the past month.
The desire that some people have to abuse children is not going to disappear as a result of what has come out in the press. Although the government will be undoubtedly lining up new laws and regulations to try and prevent paedophiles finding vulnerable children to abuse, this is also unlikely to stop the sexual abuse of minors.
Close a tax loophole and greedy millionaires will find another. Put speed cameras on the road and people will buy a device that tells them where they are.
CRB checks, making it illegal for teachers to have any body contact with children, making sure there are two adults at all times supervising a cub-scout pack, these are measures that are currently in place to try and stymie child abuse. To some extent, these measures must work, and of course, often do. They are not fail-safe though and no matter the number of controls there will always be ways around them.
Through the hysteria of the recent stories in the press, there needs to be some debate about how successful these measures really are. This then needs to be weighed up against the restrictions that are placed on the vast majority of adults working with children who have no desire to abuse them.
It is the fact that so many people turned a blind eye to what they knew or suspected that resonates, especially when the vulnerable children who were abused had no voice themselves. Many victims of abuse do not have the courage to speak up. It is very hard to challenge your work colleague, friend or family member when the evidence you have is incomplete. You only need look at the Lord McAlpine debacle to see the damage a misfired accusation can cause.
As with everything, balance is key. There is a need for more pressure on people to deal with their suspicions instead of casting them aside and more pressure for those who hear of these suspicions to investigate them appropriately. The punishment for not doing so needs to be felt, not just by the abuser but by those who let it happen on their watch.