It seems that there is a storm raging in the U.K. once again. It concerns another of our, ‘national treasures,’ and this time it is, 'Dear Old Auntie,' the BBC.
It appears that senior news editors within the BBC allowed false accusations of child abuse to be directed at an innocent, though prominent individual. That followed the non-screening of a documentary investigating the seemingly real abuse perpetrated by another prominent show-business personality; Sir Jimmy Savile.
It all culminated in the resignation of the Director-General of the BBC.
What however seems to have been largely forgotten in all of this is the child abuse at the centre of it all. Boys (in this case) were abused by a person or persons un-named and their lives debased and destroyed into adulthood. Their tragedies have been all but obscured by the arguments over the propriety or impropriety of the investigations themselves.
It puts me in mind of the first great exposure of widespread child abuse in Great Britain; that of the pioneering journalist WT Stead in the Pall Mall Gazette of July 1885 – the infamous Defloration Mania.
Stead exposed the almost industrial-scale trade in adolescent girls who were procured for rape by 'gentlemen' of the wealthy classes. To demonstrate how easy it was to procure a young girl, Stead arranged for the purchase of a certain Eliza Armstrong, the thirteen year-old daughter of a chimney sweep for £5.
However, as a result of what were subsequently considered to be illegal investigative methods (where Stead allegedly failed to secure the girl’s father’s permission to take her), he was tried and convicted of the, ‘unlawful kidnapping of a minor’, and sentenced to three months in prison. Never mind that he had uncovered perhaps the greatest scandal in recent British history and forced the government of the day to change the law by raising the age of consent for girls from 13 to 16 years.
Thereafter, every November 10th, (the anniversary of his conviction), Stead would dress in his prison uniform as a reminder of his, ‘triumph.’ He at least could keep a sense of proportion.
In my recently published novel, THE EIGHTH CIRCLE OF HELL, I show through the experiences of a single victim how a misplaced sense of propriety can keep horrific abuse almost entirely hidden from view. No one of course should be wrongly accused, but celebrity or not, national treasure or not, those guilty of perpetrating abuse should be dragged fearlessly into the glare of investigation.