This article from last Saturday’s Independent online talks about the fact that the Government is about to change their plans to make sex education for five year olds compulsory.
Instead they are going to do some vague and wooly things that will be an insufficient half way house, where proper information will be allowed to fall through the cracks, and then, when there is either a terrible tragedy or a moral outcry, they will be able to point the finger at various other parties and get away with it. Which is nice.
It will be the whole ‘stranger danger’ thing all over again. Schools spend weeks every year educating children not to go off with strangers so they can be ‘safe’, when all the figures show that most rape, abuse and murder of children is done by a relative or friend of the child’s family. Nobody educates children about what to do if that is their reality because it’s too tricky to talk about. It would upset too many people. So we pay mealy mouthed lip service to the fact that we are doing something and it is better than nothing. Except for the poor buggers who are being raped or abused or murdered by their parents or uncles or family friends. They’re the collateral damage because we are ‘doing our best’, and those are discounted as ‘unavoidable tragedies.’
This was the segment from the article that horrified me the most:
– a rape occurs on UK school premises more than once every academic day. At least a fifth of sexual offences at schools are committed by children.
I have been thinking about this a lot.
Today my local paper is running this article online. It states that child rapes are up by more than one fifth in Leicestershire this year. Last year 133 rapes were reported. This year there have been 161 rapes reported. Adult rape is also on the rise and is up by 18%.
The police, when interviewed took the conciliatory line that this is reported rape, so that’s a good thing. After the whole Operation Yewtree fiasco and the fact that the police are actually being seen to take rape more seriously, more is being reported and more can be done about it.
Just to really cheer us up they said that:
Some 51 people have been charged with rape in the last year, a 75% charge rate, well above the national average of 59%. And 32 of those were convicted for their crimes.
They are proud of these figures. I am troubled.
Just because more rapes are being reported, it doesn’t mean we can ignore the ones that aren’t being reported, and god knows what the estimates for those figures look like.
The conviction rate is shockingly poor, and I don’t even want to think about sentencing. I saw some documentary the other day which talked about a young man who got convicted of stealing a box of mineral water in the riots of a few summers ago. I believe he got 18 months in prison for that. Some people get less for rape. I appreciate that the average sentence is now eight years, but please remember the word ‘average’. A local paedophile who I wrote about last year, escaped a prison sentence entirely because the court had taken so long to convict him he was thought to have suffered enough. Poor lamb.
If we take the rising child rape figures and the facts from the article in the Independent it is possible to extrapolate that the figures may not just be rising because people are better at reporting rapes. It could also be argued that more rapes are actually happening.
What terrifies me in the light of the government’s decision to can sex education for young children is that we know that there are more rapes being perpetrated by children on other children. Education could change that. It really could. Except we probably won’t get the chance to find out because adults are, when it boils down to it, too squeamish to talk about sex with small children.
I read this article in the New Statesman recently about the Becky Watts murder by Sarah Ditum. I do not agree with everything she says, but she makes an interesting correlation between the ownership of and access to pornography and the brutalisation of young women, citing not just the Watts case, but others too.
I have very mixed feelings about the whole issue of pornography, which is a vast topic in and of itself. I am not about to go into the minutiae of it here, but it is certainly true that it is much more freely available these days, and the range of material that people have access to is also much wider than it was when I was growing up.
The internet plays a huge part in this, and we have seen time and time again that whether it be grooming of children in chat rooms, or access to hard core pornography or other forms of sexually explicit information, the internet can inform our children, and keep that information away from us as parents, even when parental controls are set.
I am not arguing for the banning of pornography. It won’t work. I’m arguing for better, more realistic, more pragmatic education.
I despair that by taking away sex education from primary schools, we are about to remove something that could literally prove a life line to a child.
I do not accept that we must protect our children by shielding them from knowledge. I believe that in these cases we are mostly shielding adults from the fact that they are ashamed, or embarrassed or have their own fears and hang ups and do not know how to talk to their children. Fine, so let the school do it for you, but do not let your child suffer because you were afraid for yourself.
At the end of last week I read this article in the The Guardian about outraged parents in Alaska who are asking for This Book is Gay by James Dawson to be banned. This Book is Gay is a non-fiction guide to homosexuality for children. Parents are asking for it to be banned because they believe it promotes both homosexuality and encourages paedophilia. The comments both in the article and under the article show a conflation between the two ideas which is frankly shocking in this day and age.
As I posted on my Facebook page, I think this book is vital to educate adults, let alone children. Homosexuality and paedophilia are not the same thing. Nor is homosexuality something you catch, can drift into, or can be turned on to by reading a book.
Paedophilia is not something children practice for God’s sake.
It is not a musical instrument, or a game of chess or the times tables. It is something perpetrated upon children by adults, some of whom, if they had been given a proper education about sex and respecting other people’s bodies while they were growing up, might not be thinking that it is perfectly alright to fuck children now.
Sexual education is not titillation. It is not sitting gawping round a copy of Razzle or condoning Chemsex or whatever weird shit you are afraid of. Sexual education is just that. It is education, and it can take many forms, and the most important thing it has to do is to teach children about what is appropriate and what is not.
It has to teach children what belongs to them and what nobody else has a right to take from them. It has to teach children about what ‘no’ means. It has to teach children that what they see on a screen is not real life, and mimicking what they see has consequences. Just like we teach them that being shot with a water pistol is not the same as being shot with a pistol pistol because one we recover from and the other kills us, we need to teach them that pornography is not the same as rape, because one is fantasy and the other is real.
It has to teach children that sex is something it is alright to talk about and that it is alright to tell someone if something is happening to you that you don’t want or like. It needs to teach children that they can sometimes stop things like that happening at all, or more than once. It needs to teach children to respect their own and each other’s bodies and know where the line is, both with each other and with adults.
People argue that by teaching children this young these kind of things, we are taking their childhood away.
I think this is bullshit. A child being raped by another child when neither of them really know what they’re doing because nobody has the balls to educate them? That’s taking their childhood away.
A child being repeatedly raped and abused by a grown up friend or neighbour or relative and not having the education or the words to tell anyone about it? That’s taking their childhood away.
Accepting that a 20% increase in child rape is alright because it proves the reporting system is working and we mustn’t think about the bad things it’s telling us or look at them, or do anything to try and fix them other than get upset and embarrassed? That’s taking their childhood away.
A 59% conviction rate for rape, which means a potential 41% of rapists are still out there? That’s taking their childhood away.
If we educate them, we are giving them their childhood back.