Stay alert so we can stamp out abuse of the vulnerable
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Abuse of children is in the news, while "Highlighting the Needy" we should all be aware of "Safeguarding". Past abuse is appalling, but the challenge for us now is to suppress whatever abuse may continue today.
More than 20 years ago I was tasked with guiding the policy-making for safeguarding young people and vulnerable adults in my parish and attended a weekend seminar. An expert comment still rings in my ears: "You should expect to have been targeted by four paedophiles in a parish as large as yours". The Bible preaches God's love and forgiveness and we rightly focus on that, but there also exists plain and nasty evil; Jesus himself overturned the moneylenders' tables in the temple - not casual for any Rabbi to get as physical as that!
When paedophiles are caught and convicted their colleagues and family express total surprise and shock horror. I can remember the pastoral council being told there were no exceptions to the safeguarding policy as we were all beyond suspicion, just as the guilty were in the reports until they were caught.
The idea that young and vulnerable people are being "targeted" appals me, but stories keep emerging about sports coaches, teachers, youth leaders and others. The young and vulnerable are not likely to come forward bravely, so we all need to watch and take care. There were probably evil people frustrating and preventing information getting to the top of Lambeth Council in the 1980's.
Odd people, seemingly vagrants, should not be hounded. Those about whom we should worry take care to appear absolutely normal upright members of our circle. One Exmouth resident some years ago had enough of normal society and chose to live rough. He donated to others more needy than himself, and studied religion as those who bothered to talk to him can attest. So let's not harass people who look a bit odd, as happened to him outrageously.
People who have an obsessive urge to abuse the vulnerable, and worst of all children, take care not to be visible; we just need to be very watchful for symptoms among possible victims.
Even as you read this, there will be people stuck in abusive relationships in the Exmouth area. Often this is physical; a man is bullying his partner, a lady with bruises inadequately explained, children fearing a parent, a pet dog cowering. Alcohol can be both a cause and a symptom - some people are violent when drunk, a victim may seek comfort in alcohol or tranquillisers. We all know this is unacceptable; friends and relations should do what they can; there are refuges and hostels for victims. Violence often begets violence, so to show loving care to victims is important to reduce the chance of victims becoming bullies. One hopeful observation is that most bullies are cowards anyway!
While managing international marketing years ago, I noted that there were people who liked jobs which took them into countries with looser sexual rules where they could take advantage of what was available. It is unbelievable that so many aid agencies had not paid attention to the potential abuse that rogue agents could inflict on vulnerable people, which emerged a few years ago.
My columns usually include some humorous anecdote, but there's nothing funny about this. Sorry! But local groups do seem to take "safeguarding" seriously.
Stay alert so we can stamp out abuse in all of its many forms.