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Why are protections for children being removed?

Written by: Mary Howden

I’ve worked in Social Services in Scotland in one way or another since I was 17. For 15 years I supported adults who were survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Many of whom were scared, shameful, full of self remorse, believed they were to blame for what happened to them as children. They had low self esteem, were detached from their lives, hated themselves, self harmed and all are acutely aware of males around them judging, making comments, imposing themselves in their space. Sometimes letting themselves be used for sex. All traumatised by their experiences knowing they thought it was normal for children to experience sexual abuse. Their lives were shattered, unable to sustain relationships with others. Tentatively trying to trust enough to begin to deal with their trauma in childhood.

Child Safeguarding

But, just how prevalent is child sexual abuse?

Barnardos state:

Evidence from agencies tells us 1 in 6 children experience sexual abuse before their 18th birthday. While this is startling enough, we also know that this isn’t the whole picture: the level of child sexual abuse that’s self-reported in surveys is much higher than the level recorded by agencies. That means that 7 out of 8 of those experiencing child sexual abuse don’t come to the attention of police or local authorities.

At the end of 2019/20 Barnardos were running 76 child abuse and exploitation services across the UK

The NSPCC states that data reveals

  • Concerns around sexual abuse have been identified for over 2,800 children in the UK who are the subject of a child protection plan or on a child protection register.

  • Over a third of all police-recorded sexual offences are against children.

  • Girls and older children are more likely to experience sexual abuse.

  • The vast majority of children who experience sexual abuse were abused by someone they knew

In 2020 they highlighted a 57% increase in child sexual abuse cases.

There were 73,518 recorded offences including rape online grooming and sexual assault against children in the UK in 2019/20 - up 57% in the 5 years since 2014/15

Where gender and age were recorded

  • Girls were 4 more times likely to be victims

  • There were more than 8,000 offences committed against 14 year olds

Making it the most common age group to report offences

  • There were 12,734 sex crimes recorded against children under 10

  • 449 offences were recorded against babies yet to reach their first birthday.

These very high levels of abuse suggest that safeguards should be strengthened but this is not happening. I have watched in horror as individuals, organisations and government departments break down safeguards that were put in place to protect children and vulnerable adults.

Mixed sex facilities

The rise in using very sexualised material for the education of children and young people

Government guidance which undermines safeguarding

The role of charities

No safeguarding in recreational activities

When boys identify as girls safeguarding is ignored

  • Girlguiding allowing males to sleep in the same accommodation as young girls on residential trips

  • David Cameron summer camps

De stigmatisation of paedophilia

This list is not exhaustive but when collated like this it is astonishing. It is no surprise that there is an increase in child sexual abuse cases.

So who gains when society breaks down those safeguards put in pace to protect children and vulnerable adults?

Those who perpetrate this abuse. They are men in the community who are admired. They are doctors, teachers, priests, politicians, police officers, fathers, uncles, brothers, nephews and sons. They are men who figure out the best and easiest way to gain access to children. They like it when there are no boundaries or safeguards in their way.

Finally, who pays the price?

Unimaginable terrible things happen to children. Child protection, child safeguarding and family involvement whenever possible is a paramount requirement in a civilised society. It needs our Government and authorities responsible for the care and protection of children to stand steadfast to these principles. It must never be broken or eroded by societal fashions, whims or ideologies. But it also needs adults to stand up for children. We all have a responsibility to protect children from harm. We cannot stand idly by and let this onslaught of sexualised behaviour continue to influence our children’s lives. I intend to make a noise. Who will join me?



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