Listening and Learning
Updated: Oct 30, 2019
When people feel uncomfortable they quite often slip into self-defence mode.
I’ve watched people – real life, internet and media – winding themselves into barbed wire anger over the unfolding of what appears to have been systematic sexual abuse of children within most of our lifetimes. Under our very noses in fact. It feels so close to home, people feel the need to shout about how wrong it all was.
Which of course it was. It’s the shouting I am struggling with. Making particular director general’s fall guys, thinking this is about a specific media outlet and their standards or elaborating on what a monster Savile was, makes it all the responsibility of some rare rogue men of evil. It’s as if by extracting the poison at the top we don’t have to think about all the individual steps along the way, the people who knew something was wrong but did nothing, a “care’ system that did anything but, the failed police reports, the people who did not listen, a society that allows this to be swept under a mountain of a rug for thirty odd years.
It very conveniently forgets the children involved, many of which will be adults watching and reading the very same things you do. And hearing the reactions.
It is so much easier to get angry than to listen. I fear this is very dangerous.
I didn’t report abuse that happened to me when I was young not because I thought no one would believe me, or because one was the nice guy everyone loved, or one was the frightening guy who gave everyone the creeps, or because I thought no one would listen, it was because I didn’t want to make a fuss. I was a kid, and I didn’t have the coping mechanisms for what was being done to me, so the idea of inviting something which was inevitably going to cause a lot of problems was never even considered.
I cannot imagine the courage it took Steve Messham to stand up to make a public declaration of what he was told to be true; and then to have to state he thinks he made an error. I am not sure I could have done half of that.
The reaction to this ugly unfolding of events does not appear to me to be doing anything other than pointing and screaming. I see little in all of this that is laying foundations that this could never happen again. It is not about one demon, one news programme, one care home, it should be about building a community of human beings where these things are prevented from being filed under “Unmentionable” and where we create a safe environment for people, especially children, to be able to voice their concerns when they think something is not right.
Last night I saw a lot of misplaced outrage resulting in retweeting abhorrent images coming from particular Twitter accounts. By doing so, this means you personally are responsible for spreading those image and messages to wider audience. You are not solving a crime, you are giving the horror and it’s perpetrator free exposure. If you are horrified, report it.
Please remember the very basics when these issues arise. In your words, your actions, on and off line, please pause for a moment and ask yourself if there is a chance that what you are saying could be encouraging someone who has been violated to remain quiet for a little longer. Because whilst this pitchfork mob anger runs off into the horizon, there are people who have been abused who are left feeling quite lonely, unprotected and unsafe.