This Jimmy Savile business http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/oct/18/jimmy-savile-protected-media?commentpage=3#start-of-comments has been very distressing for me, because it has stirred up so many memories, particularly at a time when police are still investigating what I told them, back in June. I am blessed to have the support of my family through this investigation, despite how horrible it must be for them to have to dredge up something which they thought they had been able to let go, at least to a degree.
In reality, the lack of investigation when the crimes of my abuser were reported to the police by my parents, 20 years ago, affected all our lives. It made all of us, my parents, sister and I, believe that maybe there was something inappropriate about our reaction, our devastation as a family. The fact that my parents remain married is testament to their deep commitment to one another. They have truly lived ‘for better, for worse’ in a way that most people would only imagine in their worst nightmare.
Abusers make sure that victims feel responsible for what occurs. The police confirmed this by not investigating. I believed, to the very depths of my being, that there must be something inherent in me. This is why I then married so very young, and stayed married, to an abusive husband. The marriage ended when he too was revealed to be a paedophile.
I have stayed quiet as the JS story has unravelled. I don’t have too much to say about it directly, other than that I hope it opens people’s eyes to the reality that paedophilia is perpetrated throughout society.
Trying to demonise the entire Catholic church, for example (as some cynical anti-faith types have tried to do #ahem# Richard Dawkins #ahem#) as unique in its having paedophiles – and cover-ups – has in the end only done a disservice to all victims of sexual abuse.
In all things child protection, we must remember the one golden rule:
The wolf will always hide among the sheep.
Christ himself warned of this level of deceit when he addressed the scribes and pharisees: “You are like white-washed tombs, which look fine on the outside but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all kinds of rottenness. For you appear like good men on the outside—but inside you are a mass of pretence and wickedness.”
Matthew 23:27,28 JBPT
He warned his followers:
“I am sending you out like sheep with wolves all round you; so be as wise as serpents and yet as harmless as doves.”
Matthew 10:16 JBPT
The wolf will always hide among the sheep
Please don’t dismiss what this really means, or use it to create problems where the risk is very small, e.g. the notion of ‘stranger danger’ when most victims are abused by someone they know. I am not Catholic, but I thank God the Catholic church has begun to address the seriousness of this problem. Let’s hope the rest of society can follow.
Also, I would not have been considered in any way a ‘vulnerable child’. I came from a relatively well-off, middle-class family. No neglect, no alcohol, no violence, no financial deprivation. On the contrary, my father worked hard for his family and my mother was as sweet and gentle a mother as anyone could wish for. So being a ‘vulnerable’ child (as in the Rochdale incidents) could not have been used as a reason why the police did not even investigate the allegation of repeated rape of a child.
Given the JS case, where repeated, separate allegations were made to people in positions of power, including the police, and given my own circumstances, where I know for myself the same attitude, how can the Catholic church be held up for condemnation when even the police (whose very existence is to prosecute criminals) treat the victim, by default, as ‘a troublemaker’?
It doesn’t make the abuse of children by priests excusable (of course not!), but it shines a different light on the situation. That light shows that wolves like to hide among the sheep. In the church, we even use the words ‘sheep’ and ‘flock’ to refer to the congregation, and ‘shepherd’ to refer to God. But ‘wolves’ and ‘sheep’ can be anywhere: a church, a family, a school, the BBC… We must all act with wisdom.
I hope, if nothing else, that the JS story is the beginning of a sea-change in our culture, where paedophilia is not so taboo that its recognition becomes a witch-hunt (which is of no use to victims, but devastating to the falsely accused), and that real, genuine recognition and healing can take place. Above all, I hope it leads to a situation which protects children from lives blighted by unnamed shadows.
I have lived a life of shadows.
That said, I have come from shadows into light, and I would like to end this post with Jesus’ golden words:
“I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand.”
John 10:25-28 NIV