Thursday, 23 June 2011

You just can't tell

Just remember, you can't spot a paedophile at sight. This what Alastair Rolfe said about this towards the end of Chosen.
The successful paedophiles are the ones that aren’t discovered of course and there are plenty of them around. They are people who have all the social graces that you might expect in someone of normal behaviour. They’re charming, they have good conversation, they’re caring, they’re intelligent, they’re interested, they’re committed to what they’re doing, they earn respect, they appear like any other member of society quite frankly and you just can’t tell. Sorry but you can’t tell.
The London Child Protection Procedures say essentially the same thing, though they put it in dryer and more dispassionate language.
Sex offenders have no common profile, and it is important for professionals to avoid attaching any significance to stereotypes around their background or behaviour. While media interest often focuses on ‘stranger danger’, research indicates that as much as 80 per cent of sexual offending occurs in the context of a known relationship, either family, acquaintance or colleague.
In this context, the local teacher or priest counts as a "known relationship". What both statements mean in essence that you cannot treat anybody as being above suspicion. The case of Fr Kit Cunningham shows that even people who fondly believed themselves to be sophisticated and able to spot an abuser were completely taken in.

It is clearly impossible to go round assuming that everybody is about to molest you. That isn't what I mean when I say that nobody can be above suspicion.What I mean is that if there is a report or allegation, it has to be properly investigated to see if it has any substance. You can't discount an allegation because you think "XYZ is a splendid fellow, he would never do a thing like that.", because no matter how splendid a fellow he appears to you, that could all be a front. You aren't in a position to know.

So if abusers are to be caught quickly before they can do significant harm, all allegations have to be reported so they can be investigated. Who does the investigating is also of critical importance. The investigator has to be somebody who doesn't know the alleged perpetrator, and so doesn't have preconceptions as to the sort of person he is. And the investigator has to have training and experience in the subject so that he or she doesn't miss important clues, and know what sorts of preconceptions might lead an investigation astray.

In the UK, this is why all allegations of abuses by adults in a school should be automatically reported to the LADO, the Local Authority Designated Officer for Child Protection. Part of the Children's Services in the local authority, the LADO has the necessary training to conduct child abuse investigations properly. Also the LADO has no commercial interest in the outcome of the investigation, no benefit if it turns out that the allegations are unfounded.

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