In the past weeks it has been almost impossible to open a newspaper or click on a blog link without reading something about Jimmy Savile. I have avoided the topic, not because I have nothing to say but because I have so much to say that I am finding it difficult to concentrate on one aspect of this story.
Some have written about the BBC covering up the abuse, others have complained about the cancelling of the TV show last year and their sticking with the planned Christmas TV special about the life of Savile. Still others have compared the abuse with that of the girls in Rochdale, who like the girls abused by Savile were let down by those who should have protected them.
Amongst all this rage and terror, it is easy to lose sight of the real losers. The girls and boys who are abused every day in UK, not just be prominent citizens but by fathers and brothers, uncles and cousins, football coaches and scout leaders. The damage inflicted on these innocent children does not go away, it haunts them for the rest of their lives, as the Britmums bloghop shows.
Britmums have asked Bloggers to come together and speak out. To break the silence. To listen. To stretch out a loving hand. The stories shared on the bloghop are harrowing to read. Each and every one of these women deserves our respect for their bravery in sharing such a difficult part of their past.
When we read the stories in newspapers about child abuse, it is tempting to look away. Too terrifying are the thoughts that come into my head. I look at my children and try not to imagine, if even for one moment, how it must feel to know that trusting another person had put them in danger’s way.
When our children leave the house we entrust others to care for them. Teachers, youth leaders, scout leaders, football coaches… even our own families.
How can we protect our children from abuse?
By talking to them, and above all by listening. I have blogged about this before, about the importance of raising self-confident children who are willing to question something that others do. About being involved in their lives, being there to pick them up, being ready to ask questions.
The abuse of children in care shows that paedophiles know exactly which kids to target – the ones without involved parents, the ones who are so starved of love and affection that they misread the signs of interest.
Being involved in our children’s lives, truly listening to them when they are worried, and giving them self-confidence is not 100% protection. There can be no guarantees but it is a start.
When children want to talk we must listen. And when adults who were abused feel ready to tell us about their past, then we owe it to them to lend them an ear.
Listen. Believe. Love.