Kids afraid to stay in!

May 23, 2004

The media’s focus on paedophiles as random attackers who target strangers is seriously distorted and is putting children at risk, says Britain’s most senior policeman charged with clamping down on child abuse.Statistics show that only 10 per cent of paedophile attacks are committed by strangers, with 60 per cent being carried out by family members, and the remainder committed by friends and neighbours. ‘But sexual abuse within the family doesn’t sell papers because it takes away the “safety factor” in the family home,’ said Detective Chief Inspector Matthew Sarti, head of the Metropolitan Police’s Paedophile Unit. ‘Sexual abuse at the hands of strangers is everyone’s worst nightmare and sells newspapers. The majority of people think the biggest threat to their children is the man on the internet or the stranger on the street. The reality is that it is a person living in their household,’ continued Sarti, who made his comments at The Lost Children conference at Scotland Yard last Thursday. In recent years the press has devoted large amounts of column inches to high-profile child abuse stories, including the murders of Sarah Payne, and Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman. The stories have prompted nationwide revulsion and led to a series of law changes for offences such as ‘grooming’ – communicating with a child in an attempt to procure them for rape. Hysteria whipped up by the press reached its height with the News of the World ‘s infamous campaign to ‘name and shame’ paedophiles, which led to accusations that the paper had encouraged ‘mob justice’. Carole Easton, chief executive of the charity ChildLine, which helped organise the high-level conference attended by MPs and senior civil servants, echoed Sarti’s comments and warned that newspapers had sent ‘confusing signals to children’. Easton said media coverage of paedophilia has meant that children have created ‘an image of someone [a paedophile] and the person who is abusing them is not that person. So they figure that maybe what is happening to them is OK.’. The charity said information campaigns had helped children realise sexual abuse was no longer a taboo subject. In 1986, when ChildLine started, more than a third of children who called its helpline and who were being sexually abused had been suffering for five years or longer. Today, ChildLine said, half of all children being abused call its helpline within one month…

Guardian

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