Man’s inhumanity surrounds us. Technology has recreated a world in which we are unable to escape the cacophony of heartless atrocities affecting our children – mutilations and killings because of the “sin” a child commits when she seeks knowledge, fathers killing their victim daughters to restore honor to themselves, parents brutally beating their children, a church condoning pedophilia, and the terrorism, death and mayhem to our children caused by the Islamic State. The stench of violent intolerance inundates us. In the midst of this reality, I thought one story of child brutality wouldn’t shock me. I thought I had heard it all. I was wrong.
It took a professor to publicize to the world the atrocity of Rotherham, Great Britain, where over ONE THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED children were systematically brutalized over a span of 16-years.* They were raped, sexually exploited and trafficked while police and government officials did NOTHING, but blame and be contemptuous of the child victims. Given the scale of the brutality and the utter lack of governmental concern, one might wonder if these events were merely the outpouring of someone’s psychotic imagination. No such luck. Although the authorities knew, Rotherham’s children were the victim of vicious and sustained sexual abuse.
Multiple men raped girls countless times and traded them for arms and drugs. Threats of violence to family members kept the children quiet. Those who spoke found their words punishable by the very authorities sworn to protect them. Those authorities fined parents for wasting police time, unaccountably lost bags of evidence making arrests and convictions impossible, claimed 12-year old victims “consented” to the brutality, and took from the child victims the babies born of the assaults who were never seen again. Little if anything was done to help the victims or to bring the perpetrators to justice while the years and carnage mounted steadily.**
Though the events of Rotherham are unpardonable, they are becoming more commonplace. Rotherham is merely the latest reported atrocity against children, evidencing the double-edged sword hanging over their heads. In every corner of the world, our children are unable to rely on those closest to them for security and protection, because it is those closest to them who are either causing or permitting their harm, a harm that will steal their youth and scar their lives. As UNICEF recently confirmed, “most violence against children occurs at the hands of the people charged with their care or with whom they interact daily – caregivers, peers and intimate partners.” ***
We cannot shut out the cacophony or let it become mere background noise to our daily lives. We must raise our voices above the din and demand of our public officials the safety of our children. If we cannot keep our children safe, we, at least, owe them a concerted effort to preserve their innocence. If the most vulnerable among us cannot trust their parents, their church or their government to keep them safe, then whom can they trust and what becomes of their childhood?
* Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham, an investigation into child sexual abuse in the Metropolitan Borough of Rotherham in South Yorkshire, Jay, Alexis, August, 2014.
** See, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/02/world/europe/reckoning-starts-in-britain-on-abuse-of-girls.html?_r=0, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/11066646/Rotherham-politics-imported-from-Pakistan-fuelled-sex-abuse-cover-up-MP.html, and http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/rotherham-child-abuse-inquiry-over-1400-children-raped-trafficked-by-men-pakistani-heritage-1462666.
*** Hidden in Plain Sight- A Statistical Analysis of Violence against Children, Unicef, New York, 2014, http://files.unicef.org/publications/files/Hidden_in_plain_sight_statistical_analysis_EN_3_Sept_2014.pdf