At Researching Reform we don’t often mention personal landmarks or online milestones, but when we received a notification in the early hours of this morning that our site had reached 1337 likes, we were curious about the significance of what seemed at first like a random number.

A little research on the net revealed a really interesting clue.

1337, or Leet, is actually an alternative alphabet for the English language, used mostly by internet mavens and hackers. Those who use it consider themselves to be an elite group within the online community, but it has since entered the mainstream and become more widely known.


So Leet, or 1337 is actually an abbreviation for eleet or 31337, which derives from, yes, you guessed it, the word elite. The idea then, is that once you hit 1337 likes on a WordPress blog you’ve joined a club of sorts.

We are sure many of you who read this blog and who have blogs of your own will have reached this milestone also, so please do drop by and let us know and we’ll look forward to cheering you on.

All that’s left for us to do now is thank those of you who liked our posts enough to get us here. So thank you for supporting the blog and we hope we continue to offer you interesting content.

Wishing everyone a happy weekend,

Researching Reform xxxxxx


Why Does It Take Victims Of Child Sexual Abuse So Long To Speak Up?

That is the title of an excellent article written by Michael Salter, a Senior Lecturer in Criminology at the University of Western Sydney.

In his piece, he explains why men and women who experience sexual abuse as children often take so long to speak up, how environments can make disclosure not just difficult but unappealing to say the least, and what questions we should really be asking when trying to understand abuse that takes place sometimes decades before it comes to light.

Very much worth a read if you have a moment, and if you want to get in touch with Mike, he is on Twitter and currently working on a research project focusing on stalking and violence against women. 

“The Terms Are Cold. They Speak Nothing Of A Relationship Or Emotions But Of Institutions And Military Language.”

That is a description of the words and phrases used in children’s care homes in England and implicitly at least, their effect on the children who live in them.

We haven’t felt this strongly about a piece on child welfare for some time, but this article by a children’s rights worker embraces our thoughts and feelings exactly about some of the basic problems children in care experience and why the way these places are run so desperately needs to change.

The kind of language we use around children makes a huge impact on them. Whether a child grows up within a conventional home or one run by the state, words can be comforting and kind, but they can also be cold, destructive tools that damage a child’s development. And it’s often the subtle, ongoing lexicon in a child’s life that affects them the most. Tell a child they live ‘on site’ long enough, and they won’t ever feel they have a home, a safe space to run to should they need it. It would not surprise us if the high prevalence of runaways in care homes was not amply aided and abetted by  ‘arm’s length’ language used in these places.

In the piece, which has been sponsored by Cafcass (but we’ll forgive it that for now despite their continued inability to make their services personable), a young girl in care collects all the words she hears in her children’s home and puts them into a poem. We’ve added the poem below because it shows the extent of the problem:

“On shift, offsite

Menu planner, pathway plan

Full care order, section 20

Grateful, lucky

Welcome pack, clothing allowance

Health and safety, sanctions

Staff rota, staffroom

Sign for, key worker

Your file, care plan

Back to the unit

Semi independence, comply

Risk assessment, activity

Stat visit, staff

Looked after, leaving care

Pep, hand over

Contact, siblings

Aftercare, LAC review

Notice board, negative behaviour

Residential, engaged.”

The article is very much worth a read if you have time. For those who understand the difficulties much of it will ring true, for those who have yet to see them, this piece is a must read.

Child Abuse Inquiry Invites Victims And Survivors To Share Their Experiences

As part of the Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse’s Truth Project, the Inquiry are inviting victims and survivors to share their experiences through a new area on the dedicated website called Share Your Experience. 

The site explains that they are hoping to hear from people who have experienced the following:

  • anyone who was sexually abused as a child in an institutional setting like a care home, a school or a religious, community or state organisation, or who first came into contact with their abuser in an institutional setting
  • anyone who was sexually abused as a child, and reported their sexual abuse to a person in authority, like a police officer or teacher, where the report was ignored or not properly acted on.

The Inquiry website then offers you a link to a form, which can be filled out online.

You can also contact the Inquiry on their dedicated help line: 0800 917 1000

On passing information on to the police, the site says:

We are required to pass on any information about child abuse to the police.

However we will not pass your name and contact details to the police without your consent, unless it is necessary to protect a child who is at risk of continuing abuse.

More information on the Inquiry’s different projects can be accessed here.


Question It!

Hello and welcome to another week, as we hit the back to school run up.

This week’s question is a philosophical one.

Draft guidelines in Australia have recently been published, which ask the public to consider the possibility of allowing parents to choose the gender of their babies during the IVF process. In the past in Australia, gender selection has been allowed but only on medical grounds, such as avoiding gender linked genetic disorders. This exception is much the same in the UK.

Understandably, the question over whether gender selection should be allowed for non medical reasons has caused concern. In this very interesting article on the topic, a researcher at the University of Sidney argues that to allow gender selection is inherently sexist, and would do more harm than good. She suggests that freedom of selection would simply reinforce gender stereotypes, deny diversity and, crucially, ignore the individuality of the child by imposing external stereotypes before they’re even born.

Those who argue in favour of gender selection say it is the right of the parents to decide, to have that freedom of choice and that it could balance gender inequality, where for example a family has a son and would like to have a girl also.

Our question to you then, is just this: is this conundrum at its heart a conflict of interests between the rights of the parent and the rights of the unborn child, or is there no real conflict to speak of, because nature always finds a way of balancing the scales?


This Website Encourages Extra Marital Affairs – But Who’s To Blame?

Now infamous dating website Ashley Madison – a site which facilitates extra marital sex – has been hacked into and the personal details of its 37 million users made public.

In this interesting article, a professor at the University of Birmingham suggests that we should blame the marketing company who runs the site for extra marital affairs, but is that right or are they simply tapping into a demand – a demand which has seen 37 million people sign up to this site?

Having sex with someone other than your spouse during a marriage is not illegal in the UK, but it is defined as adultery which can be grounds for divorce. Depending on where you look, adultery’s meaning ranges from “any act of sexual intercourse by a married person with someone not his or her spouse”, to “extramarital sex that is considered objectionable on social, religious, moral or legal grounds.”

In some parts of the world adultery is illegal, and can lead to fines, a prison term and even the death penalty. To make matters more complicated, many of these measures are used to punish women who have been raped. Interestingly, adultery remains illegal in 21 states across America.

As details of the people who used Ashley Madison come out, some are simply denying they ever used the site.  Others are apologising, and throwing themselves at the mercy of a mesmerised public.

But is the author of the article on this phenomenon right? Should we blame the marketing company, who also owns a site called Established Men, which ‘targets’ as she puts it, women looking to date wealthy men, or should we be questioning the way society deals with love, sex and ultimately marriage?

Go to some parts of the world, and adultery is seen not as a taboo or a stigma, but as a natural component to a marriage – a way of keeping your marriage alive and significantly, being honest about your sexual appetite. France, of course, is a case in point. However, they too have their contradictions – it is far more likely that men will cheat than women and the Catholic Church there, ever watchful, has taken to trying to sue adultery websites on the grounds that such services promote “duplicity, lies and breaches of the law”.

Setting aside the rights and wrongs of adultery, it seems to us at least that sites like Ashley Madison, morally divisive though they may be, tell us something interesting about the way we cope with the complexities of marriage. We know that the vast majority who file for divorce are women, but we also know that when it comes to adultery, men have the lead – on Ashley Madison at least. Statistics though, are not clear enough to give us any real indication as to why adultery is so prevalent, for that we need to ask deeper questions about society and social interaction at large.

At Researching Reform, we are, for better or for worse, until death do us part, hopeless romantics, so sexual affairs hold no allure for us, and it seems women in general feel the same way – if wives do stray, it’s not, it seems, for sex, but for love. So why do people stay married? Is societal pressure to stay together so great that we give in to the cultural norms which surround us, or is infidelity not always a sign that a marriage is ending? Are we always honest with ourselves about the state of our relationships, or are we sometimes afraid to admit a marriage may have run its course?

Or perhaps it is far simpler: perhaps marriage is a social construct which only suits a select few, and like the many and varied species on the planet, one relationship style does not fit all.

What do you think? Are sites like Ashley Madison really to blame, or should we be looking at our cultural norms and asking ourselves whether they are fit for the twenty-first century?

Ashley Madison

Martin Narey Elected Non Executive Board Member at The Ministry Of Justice

Martin Narey has been selected to join a new team of Non Executive Board Members at the Ministry of Justice. Narey, who is now a freelance consultant and goes by the company name of Martin Narey Ltd, was once the Chief Executive at Barnardo’s and advised the government on adoption.

This new team’s job at the MOJ will be to advise the government on policy proposals, provide support and strategic direction, and support the development of key performance indicators which will monitor the implementation of the Department’s business plans.

The MOJ also publish the criteria for Board Member status in their statement – apparently, as per the Code of Practice on Corporate Governance (yes, this is about money), the individuals selected should not be civil servants. However, it seems that past roles can include positions with the civil service, as Martin Narey was a civil servant himself prior to 2005.

Other Board Members include Liz Doherty, Lizzie Noel and Theodore Agnew.

It will be interesting to see what this team do for the government, and whether they help to infuse the child welfare sector with much needed support, or continue to deplete it through corporate policies which put children’s lives at risk. Let’s hope Martin remembers his roots.


A Day In The Life: Jordans Interviews Researching Reform

Jordans are currently featuring a series of interviews about people working within the legal sector and we were very humbled to be asked to take part. The series is called “A Day In The Life’, and looks to find out more about the work inside the family justice system.

In the interview, we talk about our typical day, researching and copywriting, why we love the work that we do and of course no chat would be complete without a few embarrassing stories, so we’ve shared some of those too….

You can find our interview here. 



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