The Hidden Problem of Abuse

Ian Elliott

Recently the media has focused on the incidence of abuse in society and also specifically within the Catholic Church. Pope Francis mentioned in an interview that he gave to a reporter that he understood the incidence of paedophilia to be approximately 2% amongst the clergy in the Catholic Church worldwide. Many would regard this figure as an underestimate of what is the likely reality but in the absence of sound evidence it is impossible to be certain. Similarly the media in the United Kingdom have given prominence to the arrest of 660 individuals for accessing images of children being abused from the internet. Only 39 of those arrested were on the sex offenders register. In their coverage much emphasis has been placed on the occupations of these individuals. Some were doctors, teachers, youth leaders, and care workers.

To anyone who has worked in the field of safeguarding there is nothing in this that would be surprising. Indeed, it has previously been reported in the media that there are a substantial number of individuals in the United Kingdom that regularly access hard core child pornography sites on the internet. This figure should be regarded as just the tip of the iceberg. The numbers involved have been quoted as being very much higher than just 660 in the past. What is surprising and worthy of comment is the fact that society, through the operation of the National Crime Agency, has at last taken action. It is acknowledged that it has not had to use new technology in doing so. The means of doing so was previously available but not applied in a focused way until recently.

The possibility of past abuse being covered up by powerful individuals at the heart of the establishment in the United Kingdom, is to be the subject of a full judicial inquiry. Allegations that senior politicians and others were involved in the abuse of young children are now to be properly investigated. All this is following in the wake of the scandal of the hidden abuse by Jimmy Saville.

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