As the EDL attempt to present themselves as the opponents of child sexual abuse as they march in Rotherham today, I would like to now why it is not the left building a movement for justice for survivors. Instead, we are reduced to protesting against the EDL.
Imagine if the left had seriously taken up the question of child abuse and rape years ago, instead of putting so much effort into differentiating ourselves from “the feminists”
Imagine if we had built up good links with feminist groups and survivors networks, and had been able to call protests with them for justice and resources for survivors.
Imagine if we had been able to build a living rank and file network among council workers, perhaps the unions would be able to organise all those staff who felt too scared to speak out about what they suspected, and actually force those who covered up abuse out. (While this would be unlikely in the police service, a proper enquiry into cover ups within the council would inevitably expose top cops to investigation.) I can’t help wondering how much the failings (or possible cover up) within Rotherham Labour Party were reflected in local union branches.
Imagine how many local people with justifiable anger would prefer to march with survivors, feminists and trade unionists demanding justice and support for survivors rather than with groups whose main concern is the race of the abusers. I have family members in Rotherham, who’ve spoken to me about child sex abuse in the past, who may like to march today. But it is only the far right who are marching.
What We Should Be Marching For?
- Justice For Survivors. It is obscene that those in South Yorkshire Police and Rotherham council responsible for disgusting attitude to young girls are still in positions of power. It is also obscene that survivors are now having to take out private prosecutions against the police and the council, though full support and respect for the 25 who are currently going down this road. Rotherham council have now conveniently lost relevant files but there will still be enough evidence to sack people. However much trade union members have a right to a decent defence, unions also need to take into account their equalities policies. If we are to have a united movement for the working class, unions must fight all oppression that makes it harder for to build that movement.
- Resources for survivors. The council have graciously agree to cutting cabinet posts and junkets abroad to fund counselling for the 1,400 survivors – except the £87 allocated for each survivor wouldn’t even pay for two one hour therapy sessions. Resources must be found now – and not just for the 1,400 in Rotherham but for all the other millions of people like Samantha Morton let down in this country in the past who are now having memories triggered.
- Against racism. With papers like The Sun leading the focus of peoples anger onto the race of the perpetrator rather than the needs of the survivor, racist ideas must be opposed. The idea that child sex abusers are more likely to be found among a particular ethnic or social group, whether that’s Pakistanis or Tory politicians, makes it harder to accept the reality that anyone can be an abuser, and that all children need to be believed. And if we are to win anything from the rich and powerful who control our lives, divisions of race need to be eradicated. The only group that is over represented among child abusers and rapists is men.
My earlier thoughts about the failures of the left around the issue of Child Sex Abuse are here, in a piece I wrote just before the Rotherham outrage was exposed.
The Jay report into Rotherham is here.