Thursday 25 October 2012
Can everyone please calm down about child abuse?
"Post Savile, let us avoid deepening this atmosphere of suspicion with endless fear-fuelled inquires and regulations which can only encourage paranoia, often at the children’s expense. It will mean even more examples of adults who work with children being wary of indulging in normal, compassionate nurturing and caring such as comforting an upset child, giving a cuddle or putting on a plaster. This stand-off between adults, eyeing each other with suspicion as potential threats to children, dangerously threatens the sense of adult solidarity and partnership that’s so necessary to socialising and indeed protecting children. Surely it is tragic that adults feel awkward and impotent when they see a child in trouble, believing that attempts to reassure a distraught youngster could be misinterpreted as suspicious? Worse, by encouraging children to look at affection shown to them by adults with suspicion will inevitably poison relationships between adults and young people for many years to come.
Children have always been anxious and frightened by shadows and bogeymen. Traditionally adults’ role is to confront these irrational fears and reassure. What is novel today is the way that too many adults are institutionalising these fears as though they are real. Savile is dead, but we risk using his ghost to magnify these fears out of all proportion. We owe it to the young, and each other, to challenge this particular ‘panic attack’ before it does any more damage."