A blog series for those occasions when a topic gets under my skin and I need to let off steam. I can’t promise a weekly outing, but as the summer comes to a close, this series and perhaps a more light-hearted midweek one will be on offer.
In six years I have never run short of crimes with which to fill my books. In my author bio, one ever-present line is ‘There are stories left to tell’. I find it strange that the Telford story headlined for maybe two days and then disappeared. The media chronicled four decades of abuse, and perhaps twelve hundred young victims – and then it all went quiet. What does it take to make us sit up and take notice?
This situation is not new. When I researched my second novel ‘Unfinished Business’ in early 2014 I found stories of young girls brought to the UK and sold into domestic slavery and prostitution. It provided a story line in which my vigilante hero avenged a young girl’s death. As a father of twin girls it was not easy to write.
Thriller writers use material that reflects what’s happening in the real world. Terror attacks, serial killers, and organised crime are a rich vein. The majority of readers never come into direct contact with those themes, thank goodness.
If there’s one subject I wish none of us needed to write about, it’s child abuse. We’ve all been children, and many of us have children and grandchildren of our own. Even if we don’t suffer it ourselves, it touches all of us.
Telford, Oxford, Rochdale, Rotherham, and Newcastle cannot be alone. I may have missed somewhere that’s been reported in the UK. if so, I apologise. You are as important as the rest.
I understand completely why the #metoo campaign gathered such momentum. In no way do I want to belittle it, but how do we get the authorities to focus their attention on ridding this country of the scourge of the grooming gangs and the sexual exploitation of our children?
A few keystrokes gave a focus for hundreds of actresses to find the courage to come forward to tell their story. Why not use a similar hashtag to encourage young victims to do the same? They deserve to be heard. They need our help.
Many actresses found safety in numbers, and that persuaded them to finally break their silence. Those girls and boys who have suffered in the past, and those suffering today might find the same courage if there was a focal point on social media they can access.
I’m no expert. Maybe I’m being naive to expect perhaps tens of thousands of children and grown-ups (if Telford’s four decades is correct) to admit they were abused. I can’t sit and do nothing. What’s more, I can’t sit and watch the authorities appear to sweep the problem under the carpet every time a town or city has the spotlight shone on it.
If it produced hashtags from people in every town and city in the UK it would highlight the extent to which the problem has spread. Why not use the power of social media to promote a change? It might stir the authorities into real action to stop this exploitation once and for all.
“Society’s ability to reduce abuse is much more than a policing issue. It’s about a range of agencies – from social services to mental health – having the capacity to intervene early. If we retrench in isolation, the risks to public safety can only increase.” Sir Bernard Hogan Howe, former Metropolitan Police Commissioner