I woke last Sunday morning with a particular image in my mind, that could be aptly described as ‘collateral damage’ to the continuing #CSA saga. Within an hour, I had dismissed the thought as being unsuitable subject for a blog post. Too lightweight, I said to myself. Yes, these people have been unfairly damaged, but I doubt that anyone other than I will care.
A couple of hours later, a perusal of the Sunday Times, a lengthy conversation with someone intimately involved, and then catching up with a radio programme that I have been meaning to listen to for a couple of months now – and I had changed my mind. The collateral damage runs far and wide. Unfairly so.
The image in my mind was this staircase. A prime example of medieval craftsmanship. Part of a gracious home that few of us could aspire to, let alone afford.
You can imagine the owner of this home feeling good about themselves as they climbed the stairs to bed. A home that was a reward for – perhaps years of hard work, perhaps skullduggery? Either way, a reward that they were happy to pay for. Pay dearly too. Such homes don’t come cheaply.
I can imagine climbing that staircase too, have done so once or twice. It is of course the main staircase at Duncroft Manor. The blocked off doorway on the left was the door to Miss Jones’ office. How do you think the owner of that apartment feels now? Pride as his visitors arrive to possibly one of the most blighted properties in England? Do you think he shivers every time he hears the name Jimmy Savile and wonders how he managed to sink his hard-gotten gains into an unwelcome piece of history?
What about the proud owners of 27 Rock Lane, Barnes? Forever immortalised as ‘the Elm Guest House’. Rarely out of the news. Flat C has changed hands numerous times – overlooking the common, in an area where average property prices are £805,395, its value stubbornly sticks around the £400,000 mark . Visitors still have to fight their way past news crews.
Dolphin Square? Do you think the householders there feel a frisson of pride as they give their address to taxi drivers? Do they cringe at the inevitable sniggers when they call the printer to ask for party invitations to be drawn up. It used to be a mark of pride to live in Dolphin Square – not any longer, the name blighted for ever.
As I said, given the trauma suffered by some, these homeowners hardships are lightweight by comparison. I don’t intend to draw any direct inference, merely that they too, are innocent bystanders in the media’s meddling in matters that should have been left to the police.
Within the hour, I found myself in conversation with someone who can legitimately call themself a ‘survivor’. In a far ranging discussion, I asked ‘what on earth persuaded you to offer yourself up to the media, what did you think it would achieve’? The answer came that they hadn’t ‘offered themself up – their name had been leaked, all they had done was make enquiries about counselling’. Why had they suddenly, all these years later, decided that they needed counselling? ‘Because you couldn’t pick up a newspaper or listen to the radio without hearing Jimmy Savile, Sex Abuse, Paedophilia…40 years later, old memories that had been quietly put away – not ‘buried’ – but put away in the box marked ‘past experiences’ and an ordinary life enjoyed, had been jolted back into life again. A life that has been turned upside down….
Whilst I was still contemplating all this, I listened to a radio interview I had been storing for some months. Becky Milligan’s hour long ‘investigation’ of ‘David’s’ allegations of VIP abuse. In many ways, an exemplary piece of fair and balanced reporting – a spine chilling account of one young man who came to London for three months, was robbed off his meagre funds, raped by a new found ‘friend’ and subsequently coerced into working as a rent boy on pain of the graphic photographs of his rape being sent to his Mother. But why was the BBC ‘investigating’ – shouldn’t that be the province of the Police?
I have no reason to doubt David’s account. I doubt that any rent boy went into that work with a desire to be treated like a piece of meat – all will have had their reasons. Nor do I doubt that among their customers will have been men from all walks of life – and probably more skewed towards the top end for financial reasons. The same holds true for female sex workers. It doesn’t take a sinister ‘ring’ being ‘protected’ from criminal sanction to see under age females the subject of criminal sexual abuse…just your average ‘John’…nor are all under-age victims coerced. Some have no alternative, no opportunity to ‘get a job in MacDonald’s’. Some coerce themselves, thinking the MacDonald’s option too much like hard work.
David too, had the same reason as my earlier conversation – the airwaves were full of talk of abuse, it had woken old memories. He didn’t want compensation, recognised that it was unlikely given how many years ago it had all occurred that there would be any chance of prosecuting anyone – most were now dead.
Yet he too was being re-victimised by a media that couldn’t leave the subject alone. Tormented by thoughts of events that he had long put in the box marked ‘past experiences’, events that his wife and family had known nothing about, events that he now spent every waking moment researching, reliving, and yes, possibly reinventing – we mustn’t discount that option.
I thought of all the Duncroft girls who have written to me – many pleading not to let anyone name them on this blog – they now have useful and respectable lives and families that know nothing of their ‘past experiences’. How many others like ‘David’ and my caller this morning, now find themselves in the eye of a media storm because of yet another media story ‘investigating’ VIP abuse, reminding them of events they had been happy to forget?
I have no problem with the Police investigating historic abuse, there is no reason why a crime should ‘lapse’ because of the passage of time (though I have a different view in respect of compensation – another matter altogether). I have no problem with MPs, journalists or Uncle Tom Cobbley reporting allegations to the Police, that is right and proper.
I do have a major problem with the publication of these stories, with the arrogance of a media that believes it is qualified to investigate such a sensitive matter, and with the pretentious hubris of the abysmal amateurs that have set themselves up as ‘support mechanisms’ seeking to debrief (for the benefit of their favourite media organ) or ‘handle’ those for whom past memories have been awoken.
They are doing untold damage to people who deserve better.