News Views

Respecting the views of abuse victims

In this month’s issue Chris Durkin raises the question of the complexity of protecting children, and whether current processes are actually effective. There are times when the proper procedures are followed (which covers the backs of the agencies involved) without actually achieving positive benefits for the victims of abuse.

When children are aware of the possible consequences of disclosure, it is scarcely surprising that they sometimes refuse to do speak up or withdraw allegations. Having suffered the abuse in the first place, they are then subject to interviews to gather evidence, which can be painful and embarrassing even if conducted sensitively. The evidence may need to be repeated in court, where the adversarial process means that they are subject to cross-examination and are placed in opposition to their abuser, even if they do not wish to be. The process, if successful (in the eyes of the wider community) sees the abuser removed, which probably destroys the family as a unit, causing further anguish for its members.

As a process, it is still a blunt instrument – somewhat akin to the days of surgery when the patient was made drunk to cope with the pain of the knife. We are miles from the era of anaesthetics or key-hole surgery. And the success rate in terms of prosecutions is probably as low as that of the eighteenth century sawbones.

There are victims who want the abuse to stop, but who nonetheless love their abusive parent because of all the positives they have gained from their relationship. They do not want their family destroyed or to have to shoulder the blame for the associated disgrace. In such cases, can we find no way that avoids the judicial process and still achieves the protection which the victim seeks? We might find that many more people would disclose abuse if acceptable solutions could be found in such cases.

Activities Recommended

We get lots of emails about possible summer activities for children.

One was about the National Arboretum at Westonbirt near Tetbury in Gloucestershire. “Its 600 acres offers a vast, safe place in which children can run wild and connect with the environment”, they said, advertising their new play areas, which make “clever use of recycled wood by giving it a second life as tree stump stepping stones, a ‘troll’ bridge, tree forts and all the materials needed to build dens”.

Ben Oliver, Education and Interpretation Manager at Westonbirt Arboretum, said, “We really want children to experience our trees for themselves through hands-on play – whether they are defending their dens, knocking on wood or planning their next adventure. About a quarter of our visitors come as families, and we hope these new natural play areas will help them have an even more playful time together.”

For more information, try

If you live in the north and Tetbury is a bit far, try the gorgeous park at Chatsworth, with its massive play area (as well as the House and parklands) (, or Thorp Perrow Arboretum near Ripon, where visitors are invited to have hawks, owls and other raptors from their extensive collection perch on their arms at feeding time (

Activities Not Recommended

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution has put out a warning about tombstoning. An increasing number of thrill-seeking beach-goers are trying out tombstoning (jumping from heights into water), but recent tragedies illustrate the sheer danger of this activity. Two men were left paralysed after tombstoning on the May Day weekend, and the RNLI is urging people to think twice before taking part.

RNLI Head of Prevention and Lifeguards, Peter Dawes, says, “As an expert in beach safety, the RNLI charity always advises people never to tombstone – they wouldn’t expect to jump off a high-rise building and walk away, so they shouldn’t expect to if they try tombstoning. Jumping from heights into water is dangerous because water depth alters with the tide, so it might be shallower than it appears, submerged objects like rocks may not be visible, the shock of cold water can make it difficult to swim, plus strong currents can sweep people away rapidly.

“In particular, we would urge parents to make sure their children are aware of the dangers and the safety advice we are offering. Unfortunately, this activity is becoming increasingly popular and, as recent cases have shown, what is intended to be a bit of fun can turn into tragedy.”

Key points to consider are:

  • Check the depth of the water. Remember tides go in and out very quickly – it may start off deep enough but can quickly become shallower.
  • Check for hazards in the water. Rocks and groynes under the sea may not be visible through the surface.
  • Never jump from any object into the sea while under the influence of alcohol or peer pressure.
  • As a rule of thumb, jumping from a height of ten metres requires a water depth of at least five metres.
  • Consider the risk to others. Young children may be easily influenced by the behaviour they witness.

As part of its annual beach safety campaign, the RNLI has published a new guide to beach safety, On The Beach, which is available free-of-charge by emailing [email protected] or calling 0800 328 0600. The RNLI’s website,, also has plenty of practical advice and tips on how to stay safe.


A thought arising from Keith White’s piece this month : when one has to communicate with people whose language is not strong, (e.g. students using a second or third language, young children, some people with learning disabilities), does one have to think harder about the other person’s perceptions, and therefore communicate better, more directly and with sharper focus, or does one lose depth and subtlety through having to simplify? Or both? Or what? Discuss; do not write on both sides of the paper.


Here’s a message from Sally Faust, an Australian reader, about printable activities. (Previously we’ve only heard of unprintable ones.) As usual we do not endorse products; we just pass on information.

“I was wondering if you would please please please, consider myself and my products for a story in your magazine. I am still currently working as a group leader in childcare and I am the owner manager of QuickCraft Australia. I am also a mother of two small children. Have a quick look at what I have created for us busy Mums

“QuickCraft offers childcare workers, teachers and parents printable activities for children to make and do, plus craft and cooking recipes, poems, short stories and carer/parent resources. I have 9 CDs each CD has over 150 printable activities and can also be downloaded instantly. I consider myself an average Aussie Mum and have worked extremely hard through the years in the hope of building my own small business. Hope you will consider my products for a story:) Love to hear from you.”

Did You See?…..

….. the Panorama programme on television about internet abusers? It contained a lot of serious observations and analysis about the threat posed by paedophiles who befriend children on-line, usually in the guise of people much younger, and then try to meet them with a view to sexual abuse.

Although there was not a lot of new material, it is the sort of programme which needs to be shown from time to time in order to alert both children and parents to the risks and to the action that can be taken to counter the risks.

But why do they have to insert silly chases, following paedophiles to their homes, and posing naive questions that the paedophiles will never answer? They simply undermine the serious nature of the subject. Careful questioning of paedophiles that draws out their ways of thinking certainly is important, as most of us have no grasp as to why they should want to behave as they do. But we could clearly understand why the abusers would want to give them a bloody nose when the reporters chased after them.

From the Case Files

His birth weight was 3649 kgs. It is possible that mother continued to drink and smoke through pregnancy. The pregnancy, apart from this, was apparently uneventful.

Ever seen an elephant smoke?

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