Saturday, September 13, 2014

Now things have changed

We used to stand in awe of you
always the beggars
asking for this or that

Not any more, 
we've seen you fail. 
That brings us to a level ground

Just like that time when Tristan 
stepped onto a grassy island
to face the Morholt

And though it took him to the edge
the defender won against the powerful one
who came to take their children.

And now,
though argument has taken the place of war
and though you half control the word

Though you may put some of us in jail
we are too many.  Though you may hide your crimes
you cannot hide their stench.

Do not forget
"Though you be never so high
the Law's above you".

(c) Richard Lawson

NAPAC Conference for Survivors of Abuse

I attended a conference on Breaking the Cycle: Love and Laughter after Abuse, called together by the National Association for People Abused in Childhood (NAPAC) in London on September 13th. 
There were about 35 present, mainly survivors of abuse. It was a good conference.

Peter Saunders, founder of NAPAC, kicked off.  He is a survivor. Child Sexual Abuse (CSA) is a ubiquitous problem, and we cannot arrest our way out of it. Speaking out as survivors of CSA are now doing does help to protect children. 

He had a meeting with Jeremy Hunt, who assured him that he is going to guarantee that survivors received adequate help. 

Peter set up NAPAC in 1995, soon after he spoke out. He recounted an anti therapeutic reaction from his then therapist, who jabbed her finger at him, asking if he enjoyed it, and why he did not speak out at the time. 
NAPAC needs volunteers and funds. He mourned the fact that we give large amounts of charity to an animal sanctuaries and less to help children, even though the same kind of people abuse both children and animals.

Chris Tuck spoke next. She is a survivor of abuse and neglect, who chose to be a successful accountant, and now a life and fitness coach, helping survivors with mindset, nutrition and fitness. She is author of a book, "Through the eyes of a child". She talked about the fight/flight/freeze reaction to threat, and detailed the impacts of CSA on the child's subsequent life. 

what do we all need to do about CSA?
Survivors need to be taught parenting skills, since they do not have a good model to build on.
Survivors need to accept themselves, look after themselves, and get help. 
Society needs to be vigilant, listen to children.
Government needs to set up a single reporting, education and aftercare of survivors agency.
Abusers need therapy (RL: especially young adults so that they can get help as soon as they become aware of their inclination).

Ann Stewart serves on a Metropolitan Police Child Protection Team. She recalled one case where she worked for months on a case, only to hear a judge throw it out because "it was all too long ago". This was before the days when DNA evidence, which works years after the crime, was commonplace.

She described the Code of Practice for Victims which is a useful resource for anyone giving evidence.

Vulnerable, intimidated or persistently targeted victims can give evidence in Special Measures.

Dino Nocivelli is a solicitor specialising in CSA. 
"Historic" abuse is a misnomer. It is just abuse.
Survivors can sue the person who did the abuse, or the organisation the person was working for, or the Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.

98% of abusers settle out of court. 
The action must be brought before the victims is 21 years old.

Wendy Capewell is a counsellor specialising in CSA. She stressed the message "It Is Not Your Fault", and "You Are Not The Only One".
She mentioned that sometimes there is physiologically-based pleasure during the abuse which compounds the distress of the victim.

Jenni Steele is an ambassador for Domestic Violence UK. There was a bit of discussion of whether domestic violence should be renamed unhealthy relationship. She described how she was sucked into such a relationship, and how she escaped and created a life for herself as a radio show host. 
Te judgment of others tends to drive an unhealthy relationship further and further into itself.

I commented on an impression I formed over one extreme case of DV which suggested to me that the dominant partner seems almost to control the will of the abused partner, making it very difficult for the abusee to decide finally to escape. 

Ian Royce (Roycey) gave a vivid account of his life, being brought almost to suicide by low self esteem until he decided to change with determination and help. He changed many of his life habits, even down to which sock to put on first. 

Stephan Pierre Mitchell was the big rocket to round off the pyrotechnic show. He is a young actor/director/writer, and his career is one to watch.

His mother gave birth to him in Romania and promptly abandoned him, so he was raised in a Romanian orphanage along with children suffering from disabilities and terminal cancer. He began each day by being grateful that his only disability was having a brown skin. Eventually UNICEF discovered him, fortuitously knew where his mother lived in France, and took him there. His mother had moved to Nigeria. He went to live with her. She did not meet him at the airport, which was a bit of a disappointment for the kid. He was taken across country to his mother's house which she shared with a brutal controlling husband who beat her and Stephan with great assiduity. He ran away, crossed Nigeria in a bus which broke down in the jungle, reached Lagos, and had to live in the slum. Each day he woke in a state of gratitude that he had his life. He persuaded the French Embassy to give him a passport, went back to France, then to find his father in London (not welcome), sent to Barbados to be with his gran (happy times) then came to Newcastle, to study first Law, then switching to the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama.

Stephan Pierre Mitchell is an amazing example of what we can do if we do not allow ourselves to get attached to the negative aspects of things that happen to us. He lets the past go because we cannot change our past. But we can only change our future, by making choices in the present.

Stephan has a special superpower that allows him to let go of negativity. We ordinary mortals need to use Phyllis Krystal's Cutting the Ties that Bind technique to bring about this happy condition. I hope that this tool will will become widely used among the survivor community.

Carl Jung said  "I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become".

In conclusion this was an inspiring conference. The take home messages were clear:

Survivors need to cast aside the guilt and shame which belong to the abusers, not survivors.
Nearly all victims need to realise that they are not alone, not he only one this has ever happened to.
Leave the past behind and look to the future. You cannot change the past, but you can change the future.

Finally,there is a definite social change happening, where survivors are opening up the locked away history that has been ruining their lives. They are finding power and a community of fellow survivors and helpers. Child abuse has thrived in the past on secrecy and denial. Now it is out in the open, the abusers power is diminished.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ian Paisley has died. Related poem.

I wrote this when Pope John Paul II died. 

Now Ian Paisley has died too. 

Wonder what they will have to say to each other.

Please note the prophetic accuracy of the last line. 

Lines on the Death of John Paul II

"No Popery!" Ian Paisley cried,

and now that John Paul II has died,

there is no Pope,

so can we hope

for Orangemen with peace inside? 


They just can't cope

without a Pope.

The Papists want a Papacy

and Paisley needs an enemy.

Without a Pope

they'd all just . . . mope.

It really makes you think:

what if it pushed them off the brink ?

what if it made them turn to drink

or even . . . turn to dope?

Might be a blessing in disguise.

Imagine, if the smokes that rise

above the Convocation

(while they all grope

for a new pope)

should symbolise a wider scope

for toleration?

What if the newly chosen Pope,

red-eyed, and reading Rattigan,

loped        lazily

around the Vatican

flashing the peace sign,

Wow. Yeah. Wow. Yeah. Fine.

But that could be a slippery slope

No-one would want a hippy Pope.

We should not hope

for a doped pope;

But could we hope for one

that has a decent sense of fun?

(Maybe when Ratzinger’s gone?)

(c) Richard Lawson 



Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Middle East and its sects in a nutshell

I have been trying to sort the Middle East out in my head.

ISIS are Sunni, were allied to Al-Qaeda for a time but AQ found them too violent. They are fighting Assad of Syria. Sited in Syria and Iraq.

Assad is secular/Ba'athist/Alawite.

Alawite =Shia/syncretisation.

Free Syrian Army = Sunni. 

Al-Qaeda are Wahabi Sunni jihadists. Wahabis are Sunni Salafists although Salafists do not like being called Wahabi, though non Wahabi Sunnis tend to call them that. They are like our 17th century Puritans. Wahabis hate holy sites and tombs because they are like idols. They form about 40% of the populations of the Emirates & Saudi Arabia. Non-Wahabis are Apostate and may therefore be killed.

Hezbollah are Shia based in Lebanon allied with Iran and Syria.

Hamas are Sunni, evolved out of Muslim Brotherhood and are based in Palestine and Qatar.

Muslim Brotherhood are Pan-Islamic (try to unite Sunni and Shia) but are hated by Bahrain, Egypt military, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Russia and UAE.

Iran is Shia.

Boko Haram are an AQ affiliate, Sunni/Salafist/Wahabi based in Nigeria. They do not believe the earth is round. They number only a few hundred, but the Nigerian Government is too corrupt to do anything about them.

Al-Shabaab in Somalia is also affiliated with AQ. They actually did quieten own the mindless militarism in Mogadishu when they arrived as the Islamic Courts Union, but the ICU was suppressed by Western influence.

They kill elephant for ivory.

I cannot guarantee that this is all 100% correct.

Peter Tatchell's acceptance speech for Hononary Fellowship of Goldsmith's College

I had this via email. I don't think Peter will mind my posting it here. 
In my view Peter is a diamond. I worked with him on the Global Index of Human Rights document. What I admire (apart from his enormous courage and dedication) is his flexibility, his ability to pick up on any human rights issue, irrespective of what may or may not be considered fashionable or right-on.

Full text of Peter Tatchell’s acceptance speech, on receiving a Honorary
Fellowship of Goldsmiths College, University of London, presented to him by
the Chair of Council, Baroness Estelle Morris, in a ceremony at the college
on 10 September 2014.

Accepting the award, Peter Tatchell, Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation, said: 

Chair of Council, Warden, honorary guests, members of faculty, family and friends, and fellow graduands, I am deeply moved to receive this Honorary Fellowship.
 My gratitude to Professor Alan Downie for his most generous oration, and to Goldsmiths College for conferring on me this prestigious award. I was hesitant about accepting such an honour. After all, my fellowship has not been earned by academic study, and I often have doubts about the significance of my contribution to human rights. Many others are much more deserving than me.
 Nevertheless, after so many years of demonisation by the tabloid press, right-wingers, 
homophobes and even by some people on the left and in the LGBTI community, this 
recogniton is much appreciated. 

 I dedicate my acceptance of this Honorary Fellowship to the people of Palestine, dispossessed from their own land, denied statehood and subjected to decades of Israeli occupation, annexation, bombardment, siege and imprisonment.

In all my 40-plus years of supporting peace with justice for the people of Palestine, I have witnessed repeated land grabs by Israel. These are still happening. 
This is a human rights issue.

I urge you to boycott Israeli products and to lobby your MP and the UK government to halt all military aid to Israel until it withdraws fully from the occupied territories and ends the siege of Gaza.

 Equally, of course, there should be a boycott of Arab tyrannies like Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Syria - and human rights abuses by Hamas and the Palestinian Authority must stop. 
I pay particular tribute to the heroic, inspirational Palestinian activists
in villages like Bil’in who are resisting Israeli abuses non-violently and
who are committed to a state where Jews and Arabs can live together in
peace and equality.

I deplore the violent methods used by Israel to suppress their peaceful
protests and just demands.

I salute the human rights defenders of the Palestinian Centre for Human
Rights and B’Tselem, who challenge human rights abuses by both sides -
Israel and Palestine.

I walk in their shadow, humbled by their exemplary, impartial witness and
defence of human rights.

In terms of my own humanitarian work:

I’m not special or unique. I do my bit for social justice, but so do many
others. Together, through our collective efforts - despite the setbacks we
have recently witnessed in Gaza, Ukraine, Syria and Iraq - we are slowly,
but surely, helping make a better world – a world more just and free.

My key political inspirations are Mohandas Gandhi, Sylvia Pankhurst, Martin
Luther King and, to some extent, Malcolm X and Rosa Luxemburg. I’ve adapted
many of their ideas and methods to the contemporary struggle for human
rights – and invented a few of my own.

I began campaigning in my home town of Melbourne, Australia, in 1967, aged

My first human rights campaign was against the death penalty, followed by
campaigns in support of Aboriginal rights and in opposition to conscription
and the Australian and US war against the people of Vietnam.

In 1969, on realising that I was gay, the struggle for queer freedom became
an increasing focus of my activism.

After moving to London in 1971, I became an activist in the Gay Liberation
Front; organising sit-ins at pubs that refused to serve queers, and
organising protests against police harassment and the medical
classification of homosexuality as an illness.

I was roughed up and forcibly ejected when I challenged the world famous
psychologist, Professor Hans Eysenck, during a lecture in 1972, where he
advocated electric shock aversion therapy to supposedly ‘cure’

The following year, in East Berlin, I was arrested and interrogated by the
secret police - the Stasi - after staging the first gay rights protest in a
communist country.

I have continued in the same vein for four decades, with many controversial
protests: such as taking over the pulpit and condemning Dr George Carey,
the then Archbishop of Canterbury, on Easer Sunday 1998, over his support
for legal discrimination against LGBTI people.

Plus two attempted citizen’s arrests of President Mugabe of Zimbabwe,
confronting Mike Tyson face-to-face over his homophobia, and outing 10
Church of England Bishops in 1994.

The bishops were outed, not because they were gay but because they were
hypocrites. They colluded with the church’s anti-gay stance in public but
were gay in private. They were outed because of their homophobia and
hypocrisy, not because of their homosexuality.

I was widely criticised at the time. Critics said I had no real evidence
that the bishops were gay. Not true. I had the evidence. I was gratified
some years later when a doctor approached me to confirm that he knew one of
the bishops was definitely gay. He told me that the unnamed bishop was a
patient and once came to his surgery with a rectal problem. The doctor
asked the bishop to show him where the problem was. Dropping his trousers
and pointing to his bottom the bishop said: “It’s here, just by the
entrance.” To which the doctor replied: “Excuse me bishop, most us call it
the exit.”

Looking back on my 47 years of human rights campaigning, my advice, for
what it’s worth, is this:

Be sceptical, question authority, be a rebel. Don't conform and never be
ordinary. Shun the mob, think for yourself. Be your own special creation.

Remember, all human progress is the result of far-sighted people
challenging orthodoxy and tradition. Thanks to innovators and reformers –
often people who have taken on rich, powerful, established interests - most
of us have better lives and more opportunities than our forebears.

For the sake of yourself and future generations:

Be daring, show imagination, take risks. Be a radical for peace, social
justice, freedom and equality.

Fight against the greatest human rights violation of all: free market
capitalism, which has created a world divided into rich and poor, where the
85 richest people in the world have as much wealth as the poorest 50 per
cent of the global population.

In Britain, the richest 1,000 people have a combined personal wealth of
£450 billion.

Meanwhile, hundreds of millions of impoverished people in developing
countries are malnourished, homeless and without clean drinking water – and
tens of millions die from hunger and preventable diseases.

My motto is: Don’t accept the world as it is. Dream of what the world could
be – and then help make it happen.

Whoever you are and whatever your field of endeavour, be a change-maker for
the upliftment of humanity.

To quote my fellow sodomite and socialist Oscar Wilde:

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.”


Read more about Peter Tatchell’s four decades of human rights campaigning

And about his current campaigns here:

*Further information*:

Peter Tatchell
Director of the Peter Tatchell Foundation
0207 403 1790

Tuesday, September 09, 2014

Rotherham: How come the authorities failed so badly?

How come the South Yorkshire Police Service failed to prevent the sexual abuse of 1,400 young girls over the 16 years to 2013?

It is simply not enough to  point the finger at political correctness. It was a factor, but it cannot be the sole cause.

The police could easily have said, "Look, the Sexual Offences Act 2003  sets the age of consent at 16 years. We don't care who the perps are, white, black, brown, we are going to arrest them".

But they didn't. Why not?

It could be that the police were under resourced. The news today is that police are essentially ignoring certain crimes such as theft from cars and garages, asking victims to investigate the crime themselves, simply because they cannot cope because of austerity-shrunken budgets.

However, all police forces are cash-strapped, and not all forces perform as badly as Rotherham. There must be other contributing factors.

There are technical difficulties with getting convictions for sex crimes. Rapes are rarely conducted in public, so there are no direct witnesses to the crime. It is the word of the (child) victim against the (adult) accused. For a lawyer, children, especially abused children are not "good witnesses".  As a result of the circumstances of their upbringing and their abuse they often have low self-esteem, low self confidence, are often not good communicators and are poorly socialised.

In court, it is easy for a barrister from a privileged background, public school and university education, a professional familiarity of Court procedure and a supercilious manner to reduce these witnesses to tears and destroy their credibility.

In the case of child witnesses and rape victims, courts have now managed to understand the asymmetry of this situation, and children are now sometimes able to testify via video links and personal, one-to-one interviews with the judge, although the facility is under-used.
Here is a petition to make this facility universal.

Another aspect of the police' reluctance to get involved in this kind of problem is that the victim often has a complex, ambivalent relationship with their abuser.  The aim of grooming is to make the victim believe that she is loved and cared for by the abuser. They may be made into addicts by their abusers. So they both love and hate their abuser. They may say they want to bring charges against their abuser, but the next day, they may not want to bring charges.

Even if the police decide that on balance it is worth bringing charges, the Crown Prosecution Service may take a different view.

So the kids are "bad witnesses". There is a workaround, but the facilities to enable the child to bear witness are not universally in place.

And yet, the police are there to enforce the law. The law is that sex with children under 16 is a crime. South Yorkshire police failed to enforce the law.

There may be mitigating circumstances as above, but could there be other motives for this failure?

Three other possibilities exist: culture, corruption and conspiracy.

Every institution has its own culture. Judge William Macpherson declared in his Report on Stephen Lawrence's murder that the Metropolitan Police had a culture of "institutional racism".  And police, like journalists, are known to be fond of alcohol when off-duty, and are fairly tolerant of drunks, but correspondingly intolerant of cannabis consumption.

The police service is not a stranger to sexism. A black WPC was awarded damages for dirty tricks against her.

In the Jay Report we read (8.1) Certainly there is evidence that police officers on the ground in the 1990s and well beyond displayed attitudes that conveyed a lack of understanding of the problem of CSE and the nature of grooming. We have already seen that children as young as 11 were deemed to be having consensual sexual intercourse when in fact they were being raped and abused by adults. 
and in 8.2, attitude of the Police at that time seemed to be that they were all ‘undesirables’ and the young women were not worthy of police protection.

So there was a culture of disregard and contempt for the girl victims.

In conclusion

British policing is not free of corruption. The case of Daniel Morgan demonstrates this. He was a private investigator who was close to uncovering serious drug-related police corruption, when he was murdered with an axe in SE London on 10th March 1987. Five police inquiries followed. One is still running. The case spills over to the News of the World hacking scandal and also the Stephen Lawrence case.

There is no reasonable doubt that corruption exists within the police force. Indeed, Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe has admitted as much.

If there had been an arrangement between the taxi drivers and some high ranking police officers, it would explain a lot.

So what about conspiracy? We know that there are many paedophiles in the general population. It is hard to be certain, but estimates are that the prevalence is about 5% of males. It is reasonable to suppose that this prevalence will be greater in those who have been exposed to sexual abuse at boarding school, which is where a large proportion of our government officers, MPs and Peers were educated. The incidence of practitioners will increase if there is a perception that they can get away with it by reason of being in a position of power, as was the case for Jimmy Savile and Cyril Smith.

During the bad old days when homosexuality was illegal, gays could recognise each other ("gaydar") and support each other. They even had their own language, Polari.

There is no reason to believe that paedophiles would hold back from forming such networks within Westminster. We do know of networks and gangs of common paedophiles who have been caught.

These comments are by no means anywhere near proof that networks of corruption and paedophilia exist in our ruling classes. But the hypothesis that these networks exist is certainly a reasonable one, and it is consistent with the observation of 15 instances where police failed to investigate, pulled detectives off their cases when they were closing in on VIPs, lost evidence and other officials acted to cover up and protect child abusers in the Establishment. Even more astonishing are the three cases where witnesses - one even being a Home Office researcher - felt that police officers threatened them if they did not desist from investigating sex abuse. See "Physical threats" on this page.
One witness, Bulic Forsythe,  a Lambeth social worker, was murdered days after he spoke about his suspicions that children were being assaulted by an organised gang at one home that is said to have been visited by the Labour politician. Three men were seen taking files from his house. 
A policeman who shared suspicions about a Labour politician was pulled from the case, which remains unsolved.
The corruption hypothesis may or may not be accurate. It can be tested by a vigorous, determined police investigation aimed at finding the source of instructions within the police to not prosecute Asians, to set aside the 2003 Act, and to remove the evidence gathered by the Home Office researcher.

To expose and excise the corrupt officers needs investigation by courageous, committed officers of integrity who are backed by politicians of similar calibre. This is a tall order, but it can happen, if hundreds of ordinary, decent citizens take the trouble to join the campaign for justice for young people.