I am in the unique position of being able to speak out on behalf of alleged paedophiles, without having a zillion books thrown at me, or being accused of being a paedophile myself because I am a survivor of a catholic children's home and the author of a misery memoir. Gawd help those so labelled because someone needs to speak up for them before there are tragedies. Contrary to popular belief, the threat to children doesn't come from solitary men with mental health problems, it comes from much closer to home.
It is about time the taboo and yucky subject of Paedophilia was opened up for debate, because whilst it is in the hands of zealots driven by a political and moral agenda, kids are not being protected. Laying all of society's ills at the door of the local Quasimodo has never cleaned up the neighbourhood in the past and it won't now.
First of all, how do you define a paedophile, the enemy we are all on the lookout for? For most people the image of a paedophile is a monster, hidden away in a bedsit, popping out only now and again to steal a child. This is the image presented by the experts and the media and accepted by the public as the biggest threat. In effect, they are this century's witches, evil creatures who want to steal and eat our innocent cherubs. Except of course, the opposite is true. These isolated dirty old men actually present the least risk, as they rarely have access to kids and more often than not, they are frightened of their own shadows. In statistical terms, you are more likely to win the lottery, twice, than your child has of being molested by a hermit. The odds on your child being molested by someone they know however, are probably 2/1 or evens.
The truth is, men and indeed some women, who have a sexual interest in children are all around us, its often those who we least suspect and its often those who protest the loudest. Pointing the finger at the usual suspects draws attention away from themselves. Society doesn't need to be groomed or manipulated to look the other way, we want, neh demand an enemy we can recognise instantly, and of course it helps if there are tattoos or signs to look out for, many thanks Dr. Joe Sullivan.
Paedophilia is far from new, it is a leitmotif throughout human history and all the rage in roughy toughy Sparta. Those who claim they can rid society of this evil are lying, they can't, it is part of human nature. The only way children can be protected from predators is through education and by telling them the truth! And the truth is, there is a very good chance that among the people they know, including their bosom family, there will be creeps who will try to molest them.
I have never written about my own sexual experiences as a child because 1) I have kids myself and they didn't need to know about it, 2) I too find the subject yucky and 3) I wasn't traumatised! However, my kids are older and wiser now and able to see things in perspective, as indeed am I. And I feel sure as I relate my encounters, there will be a few nodding heads, and OMG's, that happened to me.
I was 10/11 when I first became aware that quite a few 'ordinary' adult men did not see me as a child. I do not know if this is something experienced by every 10/11 year old girl, the subject is far too taboo, so I can only speak for myself and I can only relate a few of my experiences and the way in which I reacted to them.
My Mum, God bless her, was a party gal, beautiful and feisty - and when the song about the sock it to 'em mom who gave the Harper Valley PTA what for, came out, I thought it was all about her and me! She had several boyfriends and I would often tag along when they took her out. Great for me, probably not so great for them. One of her boyfriends was a rich old fella with an open top car and a holiday flat in Brighton.
To a 10 year old girl, 'would you like to go for a ride in my sports car' is on par with 'I've got puppies in the back of my van'. He took me to a quiet car park, showed me his thing, and said if I sat on his knee and let him touch me I could drive his car and he would buy me a new dress. It was all pretty yucky and repulsive, but for me, the dominant memory was driving the sports car and the new dress. I didn't tell my mother, who would have killed him, and the dress was soooo pretty. Does that make me a mini prostitute? I await the howls of condemnation.
My next realisation that grown men were interested in me (children) sexually was at a house party while I was safely tucked up in bed. I had wondered out earlier in my nightie to use the loo, seen all the adults getting drunk, had a few 'hello gorgeous' remarks thrown at me, and returned to bed. I woke up to find a half naked man cuddling me, followed by a huge uproar as a furious Irish man pulled him away and a major punch as I cowered in the bed.
The next memorable occasion was a wedding reception I went to with a friend. At the time, the number one hit was Gary Puckett's Young Girl and aged 11, I was very flattered when a grown man asked me to dance. He sang all the words to me personally as we danced, then lifted me up, squeezed me tight, and whispered in my ear, that he could get arrested for what he was thinking. I didn't know what he was thinking, so I didn't really care - apart from the fact that he had beer breath and his stubbly face had scratched my chin, he told me I was beautiful and that was the bit I heard and remembered.
My next encounter, possibly of the third kind, was during a school outing to the cinema to see Swan Lake. Mini skirts ruled, and the moment we stepped out of the school gates, we rolled and pulled our calf length skirts up as high as they would go. At the cinema I drew the short straw and had to sit at the end next a gentleman on his own. During the course of the movie he kept putting his hand on my knee and tried to creep it further up my leg. I have no idea how a normal 13 year old would react to that, I had by that time had 2 years of harsh religious indoctrination, so I kept my trap shut and mouthed 'help me' signs to my equally daft friends who also did nothing. I wasn't especially traumatised, though I did go off Tchaikovsky for a while.
Fortunately, or unfortunately, my budding career as a mini Lolita, was swiftly brought to an end by my being incarcerated in a convent. The sadistic monster in charge liked boys and loathed females - there was nothing kind, caring or compassionate in the abuse he dished out, all in the name of the Lord. He despised women to a fanatical degree, as some of those religious zealots who rise to power often do, and he was in the unique position of being able to punish Eve and whoop it up with Adam.
It was the religious experience that traumatised me, not the human ones and that is why I feel so passionately, that the whole approach to paedophilia desperately needs to be re-assessed. Focusing on the wrong enemy allows real abuse to continue. The danger to kids doesn't come from the loner in his bedsit uploading child porn, it comes from all around them and from those we least suspect, especially those 'correcting' our behaviour for our own good.
While this 'lets hang a paedo' campaign might be popular among ex News of the World readers, it does absolutely nothing to protect the real children who are now being abused. Physical abuse is far more prevalent and life threatening, but it doesn't incite the same interest and anger as the sexual stuff. Those involved in child protection are focused almost exclusively on all matters below the waist, while evil stepfathers, carers driven to the brink, and sadists generally are battering and verbally abusing the kids in their care on a daily basis.
Predators are drawn to young, vulnerable, single mums. That is a fact, and that is where a large percentage of child abuse stems from. They move in on the family and take control. They usually begin by taking over the disciplining of the children for the stressed and much relieved mother, then they move onto the other stuff. My own mother, would never have any of it, and neither would I, but in every walk of life, rich and poor, I have seen it happen to others. There are indeed lots of signs to look out, and tattoos are probably at the bottom of the list.
When dealing with the subject of paedophilia, we should be talking about protection, not retribution. Resources should be concentrated on preventing abuse not picking up the pieces after. An angry mob burning down the house of an elderly man with learning difficulties doesn't rid society of evil, never has, and never will. Harsh internet laws will not prevent a drunk uncle at a wedding copping a feel from a prepubescent teenager, or stop grown men from wanting women in school uniforms to serve them drinks.
More children, young girls especially, would be better protected by their mothers teaching them to say 'fuck off' in a very loud voice and the strategic uses they can make of their elbows and stiletto heels. And for my critics, there are occasions when only the 'fuck' word will do and being groped is one of them. These tried and trusted methods have been used for centuries and protect far more children than panic buttons and creepy lectures from non sweary experts.
As for my own childhood sexual encounters, some will say I was fortunate, because I was molested by nice paedophiles. Possibly, but like murderers, or indeed regular people, paedophiles come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life. Paedophilia crosses class and social barriers, it isn't confined to tattooed chavs and social misfits - far from it. Most of the molesters I met and men who wanted to show me porn, were domineering, often popular, and many were alpha males and pillars of society. Look at Jimmy Savile and the string of elderly celebrities being arrested, do any of them fit Joe Sullivan's profile?
None of those who molested me, were violent or threatening and I don't feel my life could have been improved had they been hung, drawn and quartered. I also don't blame my mother, she was barely out of her teens herself and didn't have a clue what was going on. I doubt very much I am the only child who has ever had a drunken party guest climb into bed beside them or been offered goodies in exchange for sexual favours. Most paedophiles woo a child in the same way as an adult heterosexual man woos a female. Showcasing (strutting their stuff), flattery and present buying - difficult for a grown woman to spot, impossible for a child. Many kids are probably not even aware they have been molested.
The idea of experts compiling the profile of a typical child molester is ludicrous. You can make them ugly, give them pimples, bad breath and tattoos but you may as well shoot goldfish in a tank. There is no such thing as a 'typical' child molester. The friendly, non violent, generous and 'official' ones, will probably never be reported and the domineering sadists will have all around them cowering in fear.
Sadly, the most evil, the homicidal maniacs, the crazies who pop up in societies all over the world are impossible to legislate against. No amount of legislation would have prevented the Moors murders or the heinous crimes of Fred and Rosemary West. How do you draw up coverall laws that can take into account the sheer lunacy of one in a million without infringing on the rights and freedoms of everyone else? Unfortunately, those who would introduce and enforce these laws, do it from a position that says anyone who criticises them or their proposed laws must be paedophiles themselves, or defenders of paedophiles. Ergo, in the 21st century, it is impossible to have any form of reasoned, logical debate on the subject of child abuse and its prevention, because the big voices, will always shut it down.