This is an attempt at trying to explain in a very simplistic way why the UK is embroiled in a massive child sexual abuse scandal related to UK institutions. It must be a question that many members of the public are asking as they daily read about sickening revelations in the news.
Two points must be made clear at the outset; 1) I am not an expert. This is just an honest attempt at trying to explain an extremely complex issue and 2) As I’ve said before, the overwhelming majority of people that work in the institutions that I will refer to are not paedophiles. In fact, I think it is a tragedy that many who have dedicated their lives to making children’s lives better are likely to fall under suspicion by association.
To start with we must understand paedophiles themselves. I could attempt to categorise them more accurately into many sub-groups but to simplify it I’m going to categorise them into 3 broad groupings. As with any attempt at categorisation of paedophiles the lines between the categories are ill-defined, there will be crossover between these groups. All are dangerous.
The Opportunist Paedophile
This group are probably responsible for the majority of child sexual abuse in the UK. It is often stated that the majority of child abuse is perpetrated in the home by a relative or friend of the family. Some predatory paedophiles will target families, seeking to gain access to children by forming a relationship with a parent but the opportunist paedophile does not seek out children to abuse, he simply takes advantage of opportunities that arise when they arise.
The ‘Amateur’ Predatory Paedophile
Apologies for the term ‘amateur’. This category of offender seeks out children to abuse. He is the kind of offender who will hang around parks or playgrounds or outside of schools. He might stalk a child or try and coax them into his car. He might try and form relationships with children gaining their trust, grooming them with offers of treats. He is the classic ‘stranger danger’.
About 9 months ago a friend called me concerned about a situation local to her. Children were entering a man’s home unaccompanied. The man kept lots of birds. The children were visiting him because they wanted to look at the birds. The police were informed and the man turned out to have had a previous record for sexual offences against children. Needless to say, local parents were more careful from that point onward.
The ‘Professional’ Predatory Paedophile.
This category of offender not only seeks out children to abuse but also finds occupations and hobbies which give him access to children. It is this group that I want to focus on.
In general, the greatest barrier between a child abuser and his victim is the parent, excepting situations where a parent is themselves an offender. Parents normally have a protective instinct and so ‘professional’ predatory paedophiles infiltrate institutions and organisations where the parent is absent or non-existent. He also wants as much access to the child as he possibly can. Given these two very simple criteria we can form an idea of which occupations a paedophile might target. By attempting to put in order which occupations predatory paedophiles are attracted to, I am not suggesting that sexual abuse is less serious for the victim in some institutions than others. They are all equally appalling.
In order they are;
1) Foster Care: Not only is there unlimited access to the child but the offender himself takes on the role of guardian. Little has been mentioned about this in the press but I’d expect much more to come out in the future.
2) Residential Children’s Care Homes: Or other similar institutions. In these cases the Local Authority is often the lawful guardian and not an individual with a protective bond with the child. The child, almost by definition, is vulnerable by virtue of the reason why they were put in care. Once again, a predatory paedophile can have almost unlimited access to children.
3) The Catholic Church: The power of this organisation within the Catholic community can not be underestimated. The fact that priests are called ‘Father’ should not be overlooked. It is more than just a symbolic assumption of the role of parent, not only to the children but to the children’s biological parents and the community at large. The requirement of celibacy for priesthood means that paedophiles do not have to explain why they do not have normal adult relationships and the quasi internal canonical legal system which encourages confidential confession of ‘sins’, often criminal offences, can keep incidences of offending away from the secular legal system. Victims can be easily intimidated into remaining silent and there is a strong incentive for the church authorities to cover-up these crimes to try to protect the reputation of the Church. I’ve put the Catholic Church at number 3 but that organisation also organises foster care and residential care for children which I’ve placed at numbers 1 and 2.
It is not that Catholics are more likely to be paedophiles, it is that if a predatory paedophile is a Catholic then entering the priesthood gives them the greatest and, for them, safest access to children. Non-Catholics paedophiles will just find alternative ways.
4) The Boarding School: The parent is not present and access to the child is 24 hours during term time. There might also develop a ‘culture’ of abuse within such an institution which a child might not understand is wrong.
5) The Anglican Church: I’ve put this lower than the Catholic Church as it does not have the same power in the wider community. That said many of the points made above for Catholicism apply also to the Anglican Church. Other organised religions also sit within this group.
6) The Scout Association: This gives regular access to children without parents being present. Along with Scouting I’ll include other clubs and organisations which cater specifically for children.
7) Non-Residential Schools: I’ve put this quite low on the list as it is extremely difficult for a member of staff to offend during school time. However, the position of trust that a staff member has can be exploited in after school activities. I’m including Art and Music Schools which offer one to one tuition in this group.
8) Professionals: There is a qualification bar which prevents many predatory paedophiles from becoming doctors, or child psychologists, politicians, the judiciary, or similar professions but when it happens it is very serious. These people often enjoy a status and respect within their community which they then exploit.
9) Celebrity: Celebrity is the hardest status for any individual within society to attain. Celebrities like Jimmy Savile, Ray Teret, Rolf Harris, and Stuart Hall may grab the headlines when their crimes against children become known but I’ve rated this group last. Ironically, they are caught after being identified by their victims for virtually the same reason that they are able to offend in the first place. They are ‘famous’, they are known. Those that question why celebrities have been arrested but why establishment VIPs have not should think back to when they were 12 years old and ask themselves whether they’d be more likely to identify Jimmy Savile or a Cabinet Minister or a High Court judge.
These are just broad ‘occupations’ which the majority of ‘professional’ predatory paedophiles will seek to infiltrate. I’m sure readers will suggest others. This category of paedophile might not target just one occupation, for example I’m aware of one offender, who I can not name for legal reasons, who is a Catholic priest who helped out in a residential children’s home and who was involved in scouting. That one example should give readers some idea of the single minded determination of predatory paedophiles in their attempts to gain access to children.
Having looked at the institutions that predatory paedophiles will target, I’ll look at the systemic failures within other organisations which were meant to safeguard children and protect them from people like this, in part 2.