Warning over paedophile
A press and public outcry over child abuse looks likely to lead to a paedophile register, but the idea has some unexpected opponents. Words: Catriona Smith
AS CALLS IN THE MEDIA for a paedophile register dominate the child abuse debate, a leading campaigner is warning it could do more harm than good.
Last week the Daily Record launched its own ‘Charter for our Children’ campaign, describing convicted sex offenders as ‘walking time bombs’ set to abuse again and calling for a public ‘paedophile register’.
However. campaigners say demonising the minority of convicted offenders is futile when only one case in every twenty reported to police ever goes to trial.
Elaine Sampson, secretary of the high- profile Zero Tolerance Trust, is critical of the newspaper’s charter. ‘The Record is perpetuating a myth about perpetrators of child sexual abuse,’ she says. ‘lt gives people the impression that all you need to know is their name and address, but they are already in our community, already on our streets.’
Or more likely. in our living rooms. A recent survey by North London University showed that l9 per cent of abusers were relatives and 82 per cent were known to their victims.
Sampson argues that stereotyping the perpetrators of abuse as perverted loners is positively dangerous. ‘A lot of prevention work by police and schools is geared to “stranger danger‘.’ she says. She believes this could suggest to children that abuse by relatives is unheard of: ‘We are sending a message to them which actually reinforces the silence.’
In Edinburgh, a new project run entirely by and for victims of abuse aims to give survivors the opportunity to ﬁght back. Survivors Speak Out is demanding better support services and improvements in the courts’ treatment of abuse cases.
Founder member Helen Trowsdale, abused between the ages of eleven and eighteen, is angry that without any evidence, she cannot bring her abuser to justice. She believes the public clamour for identification and longer sentences is misplaced. ‘What we need is continual monitoring and counselling of
No Child Of Mine: could paedophile registers leave more suffering in silence?
perpetrators. Focusing on a few gory details of well known cases does nothing but generate hysteria and fear.’
Hysteria and fear can push through legislation, though. The Government’s Sex Offences Bill includes proposals for a register of the type the Daily Record describes.
Experts warn that could drive abusers underground. ‘All that would mean is that convicted offenders would face problems getting somewhere to live and would move frequently, making them harder to trace,’ says Ray Wyre, director of the Lucy Faithful] Foundation, the only residential project in the UK working with convicted child sex offenders.
While campaigners are pleased that the issue is receiving more coverage, there is concern that the public are not ready to face up to the scale of the problem. Last week saw the UK television premiere of No Child Of Mine, a disturbing drama dealing with child sexual abuse, in every lTV region except Scottish. Scottish Television was unhappy about
transmitting it close to the anniversary of the Dunblane shootings.
Some of the statistics wielded by campaigners against abuse make shocking reading. In 1996 the report of Enquiry into the Prevention of Child Abuse, Childhood Matters, estimated one million children and young people are abused every year. It claimed IO0,000 have what is described as ‘a harmful sexual experience’.
However, there is no alternative, according to Survivors Speak Out. We have to address the problem.
The way in which that is done is at issue. While one convicted offender in Stirling is run out of his house, nineteen out of twenty perpetrators of child sexual abuse reported to the police never come to trial. Trowsdale believes there is a link. ‘lf adults react with hysteria and fear, children aren’t going to be able to talk in safety.’
The Survivors Speak Out campaign is launched on Fri 7 Mar. Details on 0131 662 4166.
And ﬁnally. . . Ayrshire for pies, Falkirk for bug-eyed monsters
COUNTRY MUSIC HELLRAISER Sydney Devine — doesn’t sound right, that - has been handed a three-month driving ban after hitting IOSmph in his Merc. ‘I was stupid,’ admitted stupid Syd. 'When I get back behind the wheel, I'll use the cruise control to slow me down.’ Presumably, this is country 'n' western speak for easing off on the accelerator. Not all bad news though: the ban will affect his forthcoming tour. BONNYBRIDGE IS RENOWNED as Scotland's flying-saucer capital. Nearby in Falkirk, a recent UFO conference heard strange tales from a Brazilian professor about a visitation in the Amazon. Gun-toting eye-witnesses shot
four aliens stone dead after taking offence at their big eyes, horned heads and rancid smell. Now why did they pick Falkirk for this conference?
KILMARNOCK PC has received an award for laying on the finest half-time munchies in the UK. Total Football's King Pie 96 crown may be the only title to float Rugby Park‘s way for some time. Sadly, it only serves to perpetuate the link between the words ’Scottish football' and ’mince'.
IN A CASE to rival Watergate in the conspiracy cover-up stakes, Scot FM have mislaid tapes containing vital evidence of sweaty sock shock jock Scottie McClue advocating domestic violence. The Broadcasting Standards Council was investigating McClue after
Kilmarnock FC: pie eyed
he appeared to back Paul Gascoigne in his leftfield attempts to keep the peace chez Gazza. 'You need to keep women in line,’ Scottie opined. Yet clearly when hes in the wrong, he's not so keen to
take the rap.
THOSE HEADING ALONG to a recent reading in Glasgow from Hugh Collins's Autobiography Of A Murderer last week would have been disappointed. Its author was recently released from prison having served sixteen years for the murder of William Mooney in 1977. However, he found himself temporarily behind bars again in Edinburgh's Saughton jail, after falling foul of the boys in blue. Legally, we can't tell you much more. However, a few facts: Collins‘s book was due for release on Friday 21 February. It is therefore dreadfully unlucky timing (isn't it?) that he was arrested on Thursday 20 February. (Brian Donaldson)
7-20 Mar 1997 “EU!”