As survivors of paedophilia allegedly perpetrated by members of UK’s political elite come forward, it’s appalling to see them harassed and trolled on social media. Worse when one of the trolls is a high profile UK barrister, Barbara Hewson, famous for publicly calling for the age of consent to be lowered to 13.
Hewson writes for libertarian polemic Spiked Online, known for irrationally spiking at advocates for social responsibility, or what its columnists call ‘do gooders’ and the ‘nanny state’. Spiked likes to posture itself as a champion of free speech, but hurls around hysterical accusations of ‘bigotry’ at any hint of criticism of the corrupt, the criminal – and actual bigots.
Recently, Exaro News, Australian Sixty Minutes and other news orgs have covered allegations of paedophile networks in the UK, implicating ex British Prime Minister, the late Sir Edward Heath, current and former members of parliament, including Lord Janner, and members of the police and judiciary. The allegations come in the wake of the Rolf Harris and Jimmy Savile scandals, where serial child abusers were enabled by public institutions like the BBC.
Survivors have spoken of children who disappeared after being abused – feared murdered, and of receiving death threats for speaking out. One survivor, Esther Baker, has told of losing faith in the public inquiry as she did not feel supported or safe. She says many victims will not come forward because they are terrified. Waiving her right to anonymity, she claims she feels safer in the public eye, in spite of being harassed by social media trolls including barrister, Barbara Hewson.
The problem with Babs
Barbara Hewson has publicly labelled paedophilia victims – in this case a 13 year old girl – as ‘not much better’ than adult offenders.
She has publicly attempted to undermine complainants and to falsely attribute claims of ‘recovered memory’ and satanic ritual abuse to complainants and critics. (Such complaints have frequently been found to be lacking in evidence. The complainants accused recently by Ms Hewson have claimed neither.)
Since her criticism of complainants, the champion of liberty and free speech has locked her Twitter account.
She’s written many articles on Spiked, but we only need look at one, where she claims the pursuit of justice for victims of the likes of Savile is a greater threat to society than elite and secretive paedophile networks attacking children.
‘I do not support the persecution of old men,’ she writes.
She’d have us believe wealthy and powerful men are the real victims – helpless in the face of temptation by children, and calls for the age of consent to be lowered to 13. She refuses to acknowledge that sexual abuse causes enduring harm, and to acknowledge complainants as victims and/or survivors of the worst kinds of abuse.
By contrast, the goings-on at the BBC in past decades are not a patch on what Stead exposed. Taking girls to one’s dressing room, bottom pinching and groping in cars hardly rank in the annals of depravity with flogging and rape in padded rooms. Yet the Victorian narrative of innocents despoiled by nasty men endures…
It’s time to end this prurient charade, which has nothing to do with justice or the public interest. Adults and law-enforcement agencies must stop fetishising victimhood. Instead, we should focus on arming today’s youngsters with the savoir-faire and social skills to avoid drifting into compromising situations, and prosecute modern crime. As for law reform, now regrettably necessary, my recommendations are: remove complainant anonymity; introduce a strict statute of limitations for criminal prosecutions and civil actions; and reduce the age of consent to 13. Spiked Online
Apart from misrepresenting the BBC molesters, Barbara Hewson appears to be uninformed on practices of predatory grooming and undue influence. She can’t have researched the impacts of child abuse. To help her out, I’ll refer to the 2014 interim report of Australia’s Child Abuse Royal Commission.
When a child is sexually abused, the impacts of that abuse can be devastating and may last for a lifetime…
The trauma can spread to touch the victim’s family and can even be passed on to future generations…
An institution’s failure to respond appropriately may exacerbate the trauma of the abuse itself. Trusted with the care of our children, too many institutions have betrayed our children and our community’s trust, and then failed to respond with compassion or care. pp.26-7
The report profiles child victims from page 112. ‘Savoir faire and social skills’ are hardly realistic defences for children against predators, particularly when we’ve learned that victims have been harvested from children’s homes, and that the children most at risk are the most vulnerable – disabled, or from minority or troubled backgrounds. Savile attacked ill and disabled children in fourteen hospitals. Exaro News has revealed allegations that abuse was enabled by parents in some cases. In others children were trafficked and murdered.
‘Savoir faire and social skills’.
The Royal Commission report also details adverse affects experienced both long term and short term, including ‘symptoms associated with post-traumatic stress disorder, such as re-experiencing and intrusion (commonly called flashbacks), avoidance and numbing, and hyper-vigilance’; problems with sexual development and forming relationships; and mental health impacts such as depression, substance abuse and suicide.
Hewson’s refusal to take paedophilia complaints seriously unless they involve extreme violence is in stark contrast to the clinical findings and studies of those working to help survivors pick up the pieces. From the testimony of an expert psychiatrist in the field of child abuse at the Ballarat hearing of the Child Abuse Royal Commission:
Q. When the law looks at sexual abuse, we generally tend to differentiate between penetrative sexual abuse and touching. Is that rational as far as psychiatry is concerned?
Q. Because the outcome can be the same?
A. Yes, and because there can be a lot of manipulation of a child’s mind by an offender, which is psychologically damaging. And then for example, particularly with religious organisations, there’s the kind of enormous sense of betrayal and loss of faith that’s very damaging, and for a young child to lose faith, that, you know, the world’s a bad place and good people are actually bad people and you can’t trust anyone, that’s extraordinarily psychologically damaging to a child.
‘Religious institutions’ could be replaced with political or public in terms of the power imbalance between offenders and victims.
Q. Where does grooming fit into your definition?
A. The issue with grooming is that it’s very psychologically abusive because it’s a manipulation of the child’s mind. In religious institutions, my experience is, there hasn’t been so much grooming in those contexts because the children are already under the power and control of the abuser, so in a sense they don’t need to be groomed…
Q. Is there any non-contact, including grooming, that you would consider fits the definition of child sexual abuse.
A. Without touching?
A. Grooming is psychologically abusive, because it distorts the child’s reality. Dr C. Quadrio, Child Abuse Royal Commission testimony of May 25, 2015, (Day 81) p.10-11.
Barbara Hewson has claimed many of the victims coming forward are doing so with false allegations to cash in on possible compensation payouts, or as some sort of recreation. It’s another myth that the Royal Commission has debunked throughout its proceedings.
Q. Is there a body of literature about false reportage, and is it–
A. Yes, it’s unusual…It’s unusual. It’s unusual not only for children but for adults as well; it’s unusual. So, yes, false allegations – there has to be a fairly solid motivation for someone who make a false allegation, and considering the amount of trauma that a disclosure brings, and most people realise that that’s not an easy path to take, you have to ask yourself, what’s the motivation for making a false allegation? Children don’t have much motivation at all to make false allegations; adults sometimes do, but even so false allegations of sexual assaults in adults are not common either. Dr C. Quadrio, Child Abuse Royal Commission testimony of May 25, 2015, (Day 81) p.55
Even if false accusers attempt to wrongfully claim compensation, it doesn’t explain the consistency of testimony among diverse complainants who’ve never or rarely met, or the Royal Commission findings that child abuse is seriously under reported.
To those who continue to doubt victims who come forward with historical complaints, the Royal Commission’s interim report found that survivors interviewed in their private sessions took an average of 22 years to disclose. The barriers to disclosure include shame, and fear of being disbelieved, shunned, threatened or harmed (pp.158-160). When we see what’s happening to whistleblowers we can’t be surprised. Most of the historic cases show adults knew children were being abused and failed to take action.
Hewson was duly criticized, with critics pointing out that she does not practice criminal law, and her outspoken views not only confuse the issue of sexual consent, but also undermine judicial process.
The most immediate harm that her article could potentially do is to suggest to victims that these ideas are commonly held by the people who defend or even prosecute in these cases – and who cross-examine the victims. The Guardian
She and her supporters might avoid constructing straw man arguments by becoming better informed. Babs & Co. whine about the exposure of extensive paedosadist criminality and its longstanding cover up as ‘witch hunts’, ‘moral panic’, and akin to McCarthyism. But witches and communists were persecuted and executed for political incorrectness, not for committing violent crime. They were not child abusers protected by a wealthy & powerful establishment. At the heart of these institutional scandals is the worst and most insidious corruption.
Barbara Hewson is author of a book called ‘The Cult of Victimhood’ where she complains that people adversely affected by abuse complain too much. It’s rich coming from one of the Spiked libertarians. Complain is all they do, and they have the hide to sneer at those pursuing justice and human rights as ‘do gooders’.
As opposed to ‘do nothing-ers’. Or worse, enablers and their thugs.
It’s a lot of excuse making for ill informed, pompous and callous disregard. If society’s leaders not only fail to protect children, but participate in and enable abuse, outrage is an entirely appropriate public response.