April Is Child Abuse Prevention Month – Let’s Pledge For Prevention

April is Child Abuse Prevention Month in America, but that shouldn’t stop the world from joining in and raising the profile of this devastating global phenomenon. With elections just around the corner, and our party leaders pledging their hearts out, hot on each other’s heels as they blaze a campaign trail, let’s get them to focus on child welfare.

Child Abuse Prevention Month in the US started in 1982, after the introduction of the first piece of federal child protection legislation was ushered in, in 1974 – the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act . There’s a really good timeline you can view on the US Department of Health and Human Services website. 

This year will mark the country’s 20th annual conference on child protection which has been titled, “Making Meaningful Connections” and marks the 40th anniversary of the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA).

Other good sites to check out are the Child Abuse Council, and North Carolina’s Prevent Child Abuse. 

Closer to home, we have Stop It Now, and the Lucy Faithfull Foundation which runs Stop It Now. For anyone wanting to alert authorities to child sexual abuse online, excellent sites include the Internet Watch Foundation, who will look into websites which host child sexual abuse content, and CEOP, for content that may not host images of children being abused, but host other forms of content which are abusive or potentially illegal.

Our proposal for the month of April is two-fold:

For our politicians:

  • To make pledges about what they will do to prevent child abuse in the immediate future

And For the rest of us:

  • To be vigilant online and proactive, reporting any content that features or encourages child sexual abuse

We can help to protect the world’s children this month, and every month. Let’s do it together.

CA

New Research: The Ongoing Impact of Men’s Violence On The Mother-Child Relationship

First published in January of this year, this research paper explores the legacy violence leaves behind within the family unit. Written by Ravi Thiara, a Research Fellow at the University of Warwick in the UK and Cathy Humphreys, a professor of Social Work at  the University of Melbourne, Australia, the paper uses interviews from 45 mothers and 52 children who took part in a project to support women and children after experiencing domestic violence.

The title of the paper is Absent Presence: The Ongoing Impact of Men’s Violence On The Mother-Child Relationship.

We add an abstract from the research paper below:

“…This paper draws from interviews with 45 mothers and 52 children who participated in an action research project to develop activities to support women and children in the aftermath of domestic violence.

A thematic analysis was used to analyse the data and explore the question: In what ways does the perpetrator of abuse remain present in the lives of women and children following separation?

The paper invites workers to recognize the distortions created by domestic violence that may need to be identified and addressed in the aftermath of violence. The ways in which past trauma, erosion of self-esteem and the undermining of the mother–child relationship continues to create a shadow across the present relationship are identified.

The continued presence of the perpetrator of abuse through child contact arrangements and ongoing harassment is also highlighted. The ‘absent presence’ of the abusive partner is posited as a concept to assist workers with a framework through which to understand problems in the mother–child relationship which emerge when living with and separating from a violent partner. The paper has implications for social workers orientating practice to focus on perpetrator accountability and support strengthening the mother–child relationship….”

If you would like to read the paper in full, please let us know in the comments below and we’ll email the paper to you.

Many thanks to National Child Protection Alliance for sharing this paper with us.

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Question It!

Hello and welcome to a week that is bound to be filled with chocolate easter eggs and fluffy, stuffed toy chickens.

A recent report by The Vulnerable Witnesses and Children Working Group has recommended that children be given tours of family courts, much like the current school tours to the High Court and the Crown Court.

The idea behind the suggestion is to make the Family Court more open and accessible, and offer children an educational experience at the same time. However, unlike the High Court and the Crown Court, most of the matters dealt with in the Family Court directly involve children and are more likely to be personally traumatic for them – especially given that many may well have experienced family courts, either through their parents’ own divorce or even child welfare proceedings.

Our question to you then, is just this: do you think open days for children to various family courts is a good idea?

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Conversations With….

Twitter is one of the most thought-provoking and engaging social media sites around, and we often find ourselves having conversations with people who have windows into controversial and curious worlds. That is why we have decided to start a “Conversations With” category, so that we can share the discussions we have with you.

Some of these discussions will feature professionals in child welfare, and others will feature activists and we hope a whole host of others who inspire and inform us and we want you to be part of the conversation.

We will take screen shots of our discussions, so that they remain authentic and transparent, and post them as images so that you can just dive right in.

We’ll look forward to hearing your thoughts!

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Conversations With A Paedophile

Whilst the nation’s inquiry into child sexual abuse continues to think on the terms it will use to define its investigation, it is most likely that it won’t include addressing the deeper causes of child abuse, and will focus instead on which department failed to make “that call”, or use the right form. That is hardly going to satisfy victims of child abuse, nor should it satisfy the public, either. (We will be writing a piece on the Inquiry next week, so we’d like to offer more thoughts on that later).

But a chance encounter with a paedophile online last week left us convinced that in order to make the most of the inquiry, we must first understand exactly how paedophilia works, and the many different mindsets that come to it.

On the evening of the 21st March, we were tweeting about child welfare matters, as we do, and happened to mention that research suggested a great many individuals who had been arrested for paedophilia related offences were in fact school teachers. This prompted a response from an online paedophile, Simon Falko.

What transpired was a hugely thought-provoking, and provocative conversation.

Simon Falko is one of a significant number of paedophiles using Twitter, but he is not underground. The police won’t need to scour the underbelly of the internet to find him, nor will they need to interrogate him about where he stands on paedophilia. All they need to do is read his Twitter feed. This is because Simon belongs to a group of paedophiles who label themselves as non-offending, actively and openly using social media to highlight paedophilia and access support. And within that group, Simon is something of an activist.

Like many vocal paedophiles online who define themselves as non offending (those who haven’t had sex with, or groomed children) and who view non offending as an important distinction in the paedophilia debate, he is open about his preferences. His Twitter biography simply says, “I started to realize in puberty I am not only attracted to women but also to young boys.”

Simon’s lists of people he follows and who follow him, make for sobering reading. Accounts belonging to young boys, toddlers, and naked men with large genitalia, as well as various accounts which clearly belong to paedophiles, their biographies declarations of underage desire – “I am sexually and emotionally attracted to children”; “I am attracted to young girls. Very young.”; “I am attracted to little girls.”; “Paedophile activist.”; “Christian boy lover,” all sit quietly alongside one another on the Twitter page.

There are also what appear to be accounts which share films about young boys, though not sexual in nature (films like Pagnol’s Glory to My Father, and the family comedy, Yours Mine and Ours”). A fascination with psychology, sexual behaviour and human rights also features, with accounts from Richard Dawkins to professors studying sexual violence against children evident. Simon also follows an association which provides treatment for sexual abusers.

It is a fascinating online community, and it is unique amongst paedophiles. For a start the community is visible, actively engaging members of the public on the stigmas it feels exist in relation to the practice of paedophilia, and of course, its members all label themselves as non offending. Simon’s own followers, like others in the community, distinguish themselves from other paedophiles through the medium of their Twitter bio – “I am a non offending pedophile”; “I am sexually attracted to prepubescent boys but I never have, and never will, touch a child sexually.”; “My sexual attraction to children does not prevent me from following my country’s laws, or practicing good ethics.”

It is a hugely political and often eloquent community, but why are they really there, and what do they hope to achieve by engaging the rest of us in a debate on the stigmatisation of paedophilia?

Simon told us that he wanted to be a teacher, but wasn’t sure he could be around children. When we asked him why he was so open about his sexual preferences on Twitter, his response was that he wanted to discuss paedophilia because, he felt, people had a distorted image of what it really was.

In particular, he was concerned that the term paedophilia was automatically associated with child molestation, rather than what he felt was a more romantic view of the preference or urge. Paedophilia, Simon explained, was also an emotional pursuit, where adults can and do, fall in love with children. Essentially, he wanted a distinction to be made between those who sexually assault children, and those who simply fall in love with them. But in reality, that is not such an easy distinction to make.

When we asked Simon if the line between offending and non offending paedophiles was stable, his reply was a little defensive.  We then asked him what stopped non offending paedophiles from crossing that line: social conformity and a fear of punishment were, Simon felt, effective deterrents. But perhaps not deterrents that always lasted forever.

And then we discussed the mindset of those paedophiles who did molest children.

Simon told us that paedophiles who have sex with children, fall into two categories: those who simply didn’t care about whether their actions were hurting others, and those who had genuine difficulty controlling their urges. We asked Simon if he thought mental health could play a part in one or both of those categories, but we never got a reply, and then he silently slipped back into the Twitter stream.

We know that paedophilia is a world-wide phenomenon, crossing boundaries, cultures and class divides, but our research on its prevalence in society and those who either engage or fall prey to it is still too limited. There are many theories today about why some adults engage in paedophilia, and although Simon and other non offending paedophiles would like a distinction to be made between those paedophiles that offend and those that do not, in practice this seems futile. The law already makes that distinction to some degree by charging and registering sex offenders, but as Simon points out, the risk of non offending paedophiles remaining non offending is not guaranteed.

So should we take to social media forums, hunt out these non offending paedophiles because they haven’t offended – yet – and demand that they turn themselves in? Absolutely not. This online community of visible paedophiles represents a remarkable milestone in the movements to both understand paedophilia better and to give paedophiles who want to contain their urges the tools to do so. There is of course, no denying that the internet also provides unfettered access to images and content featuring young children.

The question over whether paedophilia, defined in some quarters as an abnormal interest in children, is a mental illness is hotly debated. One school of thought tells us “the single greatest cause that drives an adult to sexually interact with a child is a sexual desire for a little girl or boy,” and that this type of urge is effectively a disorder, defined as such by the American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, DSM-IV-TR. Whether paedophiles can contain this disorder, with or without treatment, is still unclear.

Simon’s Twitter account highlights that ongoing struggle. Juxtaposed accounts featuring research on paedophilia, sexuality and the ethics of sex sit awkwardly with accounts held, allegedly, by “Minor-Attraction/Pedo Friendly” thirteen year old boys, and young, gay men. Are Simon, and others in the community, using the internet to indulge in conversation and file sharing whilst using research and conversation to deter them from acting further on their impulses? Is there a darker side to their discourse? Nestled in amongst his followers is an account which claims to be “resisting the 21st century holocaust due to paedohysteria and creeping feminist sexual offence laws.” Simon is not following this account.

The community of non offending paedophiles online is a brave one. Willing to engage, and to discuss the issues, they represent a level of self awareness which should be encouraged and supported. As Simon told me, those paedophiles who do not go on to molest, make that choice because they don’t want to harm the children they love and some change their preferences over time, no longer drawn sexually to children. But not all paedophiles can make that choice or find their sexual preferences change.

If we consider that a romantic, or sexual desire for young children is indicative of a mental disorder, and we do, it is communities like these which offer us the best chance of understanding the phenomenon and greater opportunities for paedophiles looking for help and support, to find it.

You can read the conversation with Simon in full, below:

Video: Child Sex Abuse Inquiry: A Road to Justice?

On 16th March we reported that the Haldane Society, a group of Socialist lawyers, were hosting an event to discuss their concerns and the concerns of survivors in relation to the nation’s impending child abuse inquiry.

The event took place on 24th March and the society has now released a video recording of the event. We have not yet had a chance to watch it, but please do leave your thoughts on the video below.

Ask Our Leaders What They Will Do For Children In Care!

Some of our most vulnerable children are in care today, their voice often drowned out by other competing interests inside the system, so a recent call backed by children’s charities and support groups on our government leaders to pledge their support for these children during the Leaders’ Debate broadcast on 2nd April is a great idea.

You can read the Open Letter to our senior politicians here, which calls on the country’s leaders to tell the nation on 2nd April what they will do for children in care. Sadly, if pledges are made during the broadcast there is no way of enforcing them, but at least our politicians will be aware of what is important to the public moving forward. And we will all be watching them.

So how can we get involved? Children England, who have spear-headed this invitation to our leaders through their Children at Heart campaign, have also created a petition, which you can sign. The petition asks our leaders to discuss children in care live on 2nd April and to pledge support for those 68,000 children in care.

If you feel every child should be loved and given the support they need to flourish, please consider signing this petition, and let’s see if we can get the numbers rolling!

A big thank you to Children in England CEO Kathy Evans for sharing this petition with us.

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Voice of the Child: Government Response To Dispute Resolution Advisory Group Report

This just in. The Government has this morning published its response to the Dispute Resolution Advisory Group’s report on making family proceedings more child friendly and amplifying the voice of the child in such proceedings.

It’s worth noting that Minister for Justice Simon Hughes’ enthusiastic response to the report and his overarching endorsement of it come just before the election. Indeed, he makes it clear in his covering letter that he cannot commit to any reforms in the report because of this inconvenient fact. As a result, we probably shouldn’t get too excited about this latest response to the Group’s proposed child welfare reforms.

However, the government appears to welcome some good initiatives, which include making the sector more ‘digital’, more accessible and better informed, offering kite marks for those services which actively implement Voice of the Child policies and raising the standard when it comes to understanding children and giving their voice due weight.

Silly suggestions include the continued desire to force parents to attend Information Programmes (a push which highlights a lack of understanding regarding the underlying problems), pointless flow charts no doubt designed to keep people from doing actual work and the continued call to get professionals to play nice with each other inside the sector (simply asking for this to happen isn’t enough).

We predicted at the beginning of the year that the Voice of the Child movement would be a major player inside the family justice system in 2015, and so this report is a must-read, not only for its significance, but for its largely positive contribution to increasing our understanding of children and their needs.

You can access the Group’s Report here, and the Government’s response here.

(Click on the image below to access a short film on the Voice of the Child).

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