THE BLOG

Condemning The Victims Of Abuse

09/08/2013 16:54 BST | Updated 09/10/2013 10:12 BST

Prosecution lawyer, Robert Colover and Judge, Nigel Peters, apparently agreed that the 13 year old girl who was a victim of sexual abuse by a 41 year old man was partly to blame because she was a 'predator'. Mr Colover also commented that the girl was 'sexually experienced' - perhaps to suggest she was morally compromised in some way.

The details of the case are not available to the public so it is impossible to put the comments into any context - and as far as I am aware - neither the Judge nor the Barrister have made a public comment about the matter.

But it is difficult to imagine how the comments can be justified, in any circumstances when applied to a girl of 13 years. There is something seriously wrong with two powerful figures such as a judge and a CPS barrister condemning, in this way, someone who is little more than a child.

The accused man was found guilty, so in terms of the law the matter is clear - the man's act was unlawful. What matters here is the implied moral judgement about the girl. He was not sent to prison and we know that these types of victims often do not get the justice they deserve.

It occurs to me that these comments reflect an attitude held by people in many parts of our society that young vulnerable girls, who may well have suffered neglect and abuse, are judged as being morally compromised even if they have been groomed and abused at a very young age and were powerless to stop it.

There is lack of recognition that they are merely children who need and deserve our protection and that it is the abusive adults around them that deserve our condemnation and this view seems to be held solely about girls. This is something that gets in the way of our judging these cases objectively.

We now know of many cases of young girls abandoned by their families and by the authorities who were meant to look after them - who were groomed for abuse by gangs of criminals. These criminals exploited their vulnerability and they found it easy because no one cared enough to protect these girls. The girls were often not believed when they did tell the police or perhaps they were believed but no one cared enough to do anything about it - but why?

I know part of the answer - I remember when I was a police officer, the many cases of girls in care going missing almost every night. No one appeared to be asking them what they were doing when away from the home. We (the Police and other agencies) did not do enough to look after them. Only later were we rightly required to find out who they were with and where they had been - a small extra step in the right direction. No doubt the 'system' still needs to improve.

These were and are some of the most vulnerable people in our society and yet they are still likely to be given the least protection. Why do we appear to care less about them than others?

We hear of rape victims in other countries condemned as dishonoring themselves and their families. Most of us would condemn that attitude and yet - I think - we share some of these same views.

There is a perverse and primitive attitude taken by some about girls and women and sex. It undermines our efforts to reach the standards of fairness and justice we expect in almost all other areas of our society. It is something about girls being either sexually pure or sexually impure, but whatever it is - it is dreadfully unfair.

We do not allow young people to vote or drive a vehicle before a certain age; presumably because we don't think they have the judgement and experience to decide who to vote for or how to control a car. We do not allow them to legally buy alcohol before the age of eighteen, presumably because we think they cannot be trusted to make judgements about how to use alcohol.

In contrast we appear to find much younger girls morally responsible for having a sexual history without any allowance for their inexperience and their vulnerability to those who have power around them. Our judgement in these matters is often deeply flawed and we have to do something about it.