Posted: Friday 4th April 2014
If there is one type of crime that outrages every decent person in society, it is the sexual abuse of children. An adult who robs a child of their innocence causes psychological damage that lasts a lifetime. The Jimmy Savile scandal and some of the convictions since it emerged have shone new light on a problem that many suspected existed, but chose to ignore.
In November, I became the first Police and Crime Commissioner to sit on the Home Office’s National Taskforce on Sexual Violence against Children and Vulnerable People, and also recently spoke at a local conference on the subject. I was keen to join the task force, not just because it fits in with the objectives in my Police and Crime Plan, but as a father of three children, I share every parent’s revulsion at these types of crime.
There is an old African saying; ‘It takes a whole village to raise a child’, and my interpretation of those words is that it is the responsibility of the whole community to ensure the safety of our children. I was brought up in a strong community where families looked out for their own and their neighbours’ children; everyone had a contribution to make.
Times may have changed somewhat, but we still have a duty to look for signs of abuse and report them, and also to educate our children that if something feels wrong it probably is, and give them the confidence to speak out. More importantly, it is our responsibility as adults to listen to them when they do. As I child, I was taught about ‘Stranger danger’ but it is an uncomfortable truth that the overwhelming majority of abuse cases occur within the family or circle of friends of the victim.
There are many great examples of work already happening in our area to keep our children safe. I’ve provided funding to create the Positive Lifestyles programme, where youth workers are running excellent activities with strong role models for some of our young people who are growing up in challenging situations, or hanging around on street corners where they may be at risk.
From October this year I will also be responsible for commissioning victims services in East Yorkshire and Northern Lincolnshire, and a key part of this will be ensuring support for young victims of crime to help them recover. I will continue to work with the police and our partners to improve the protection of the most valuable members of society, our children.
There always has been, and always will be people who look to exploit the vulnerability and naivety of our children. We must all be vigilant, report suspicions and guide our young people to make that transition from child to adult equipped with the knowledge and confidence to keep themselves safe.