Home Truths about Child Sexual Abuse: Influencing Policy and Practice - A Reader

By Catherine Itzin | Go to book overview

20

Confronting sexual abuse

Challenges for the future

Sarah Nelson


Introduction

The material in this chapter was originally presented as a keynote paper at the British Association for the Study and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (BASPCAN) Third National Congress in Edinburgh in 1997, and part of it was subsequently published in Child Abuse Review (1998). In this chapter I identify as vital issues the fact that children's testimony carries so little credibility in spite of the evidence that it is children who are telling the truth and adults who are lying; that the survivor movement remains highly marginalised; that the male survivor movement has been so slow to develop; that non-abusing parents' groups are often disparaged or seen as a threat; and that there has been a lack of progress in reducing the incidence of child sexual abuse. I argue that reducing or preventing child sexual abuse is dependent upon both professionals and the public finding out and facing up to its full scale and nature however grim the truth may be. I also argue for reframing child sexual abuse as a major public health and criminal justice system issue which recognises the limited capacity and power of professionals to confront socially influential abusers and networks. At the same time it is necessary for professionals, their employers and professional bodies to take a position publically in support of individuals who are misrepresented, and against distortion of facts in highly publicised cases.


Facing up to the facts

There are a number of very serious challenges to be faced, nationally and transnationally, in sexual abuse work as we enter the next century. Even to list them can sound depressing, demoralising and even overwhelming: yet I am a cautious optimist and believe that we all should be. The ordinary people of Belgium, that supposedly boring country where nothing much happens, have been inspiring to this optimism when demonstrations of 350,000 people have voiced their anger at police and politicians handling of the case of child sexual abuse, torture and murder by 'paedophile' Marc Detroux, and demanded political action on behalf of abused children and young people.

I believe that for the first time in history, enough people in many societies

-387-

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