Sexual abuse is a subject about which we are all now painfully aware, or at least should be. However, a report appearing on the Guardian website alerts us to one aspect of it that perhaps deserves more attention: the sexual abuse (including rape) of children by other children. In a similar vein, America has recently been transfixed by a rape trial involving pupils at an elite boarding school. We are told that at this boarding school there is something called “Senior Salute … a competition in which graduating seniors tried to have sex with underclassmen and kept score on a wall behind a set of washing machines”. It doesn’t sound the sort of place where any parent would want to send their teenage daughter or son.
Meanwhile in England, to quote the Guardian article:
[The victim] told how she was attacked in a storeroom by a fellow pupil when she was 15. … Her attacker pleaded guilty and initially received an absolute discharge, but was given a year’s community service and put on the sex offenders’ register after an appeal. Another victim, who did not want to be identified, said he was sexually assaulted in a classroom by three of his friends when he was 15. ‘My abusers were the most popular boys in the school – they played on all the sports teams,’ he said. ‘The principal at the time tried to put it down to “rugby locker-room banter” and didn’t seem surprised at all.’
No doubt both schools are utterly different, but one thing seems clear: this sort of behaviour, if not seen as normal, is at least tacitly accepted by many.
What is of great interest in the Guardian article are the reasons experts give for this upsurge in abuse. Again, to quote the Guardian:
Jon Brown, head of sexual abuse programmes at the NSPCC, blamed hardcore pornography being made available to children.
‘Sadly, we are not surprised, as previous NSPCC research has illustrated the scale of abuse committed by young people,’ Brown said. ‘We know that, for some older children, accessing hardcore pornography is warping their view of what is acceptable behaviour.’
However, another expert has this to say: “Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England, said schools and adults working with children needed to be more alert to abuse taking place: ‘Every child needs to understand what is inappropriate or illegal behaviour.'”
The Children’s Commissioner is absolutely correct about that, of course, but how do you get anyone to understand the difference between right and wrong, and give them the strength to resist the temptation to do wrong? It seems to me that only a dose of traditional morality, properly taught, backed by faith, is the answer. But the scale of the problem, which I do not doubt, underlines the difficulty that we face. Once traditional morality, and the tie that binds, and the conscience that impels, wane, how can we get them back?
Finally, how can we continue to believe that some illusory right to view pornography online outweighs any argument that such material should be blocked? If pornography is leading to an upsurge in abuse, as Jon Brown of the NSPCC believes, is that not an overwhelming argument in favour of strict controls, in a field where at present no controls exist at all?