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How the Cleveland scandal silenced children Social workers are taught to be sceptical

The default is to doubt kids. (Pablo Rodrigo Sanchez Remorini/Getty Images)

The default is to doubt kids. (Pablo Rodrigo Sanchez Remorini/Getty Images)


October 24, 2023   6 mins

The Cleveland child abuse scandal did not actually involve that much child abuse. Or so the story goes. In 1987, in the north-east of England, 121 children were removed from their homes and placed in care after medics and social workers claimed that terrible things had happened to them. After a huge backlash, 98 of those children were subsequently returned to their families. A consultant paediatrician by the name of Marietta Higgs was accused of “seeing signs of rape and buggery everywhere” and became the villain — rather than the men accused of gross child sexual abuse.

There was, of course, a public inquiry. It concluded that most of the diagnoses by Higgs and another paediatrician, Geoff Wyatt, were incorrect. Higgs was subsequently banned by her local health authority from dealing with child sex abuse cases. But this scandal is not what it seems, and it destroyed far more than the careers of two medics. It baked into child protection services a scepticism of children’s accounts of their own experiences.

The campaigning journalist Beatrix Campbell has followed the Cleveland case since it broke in 1987. A year later, her first book on the scandal, Unofficial Secrets: Child Sexual Abuse — The Cleveland Case, was published. In it, Campbell examines how Cleveland council made child sexual abuse a priority, engaging with medical experts and innovative diagnostic procedures, only to be met by a backlash from statutory services. Children had not been abused, it was decided. Rather, the scandal was a witch-hunt against parents.

Now, her new book, Secrets and Silence: Uncovering the Legacy of the Cleveland Child Sexual Abuse Case, revisits the scandal — with the proof necessary to back up her earlier suspicions. The 30-year rule allows certain government documents to be released publicly three decades after they entered the National Archive. Thanks to this, Campbell found evidence that “there was a cover-up, and that the doctors and social workers were not wrong about so many of those children having been sexually abused”.

Shocking failures led to the government inquiry coming to a completely false conclusion. For instance, the only international expert consulted was Dr Ralph Underwager, who in 1992 helped found the False Memory Syndrome Foundation — an organisation that claimed counsellors and parents were manipulating kids into believing they had been abused. Underwager became mired in controversy when, a year later, he gave an interview to a Dutch paedophile magazine in which he said that paedophiles should “boldly and courageously affirm what they choose”.

Campbell also found evidence that the Government knew at least 80% of the diagnoses of these children were correct — but hushed it up because the Treasury had warned that dealing with this abuse would be expensive. Saving money was more important than saving children. Local MP Stuart Bell set the agenda, saying it was simply “not possible” that all these children could have been abused. He became, says Campbell, “the advocate for accused adults”. Margaret Thatcher, who was prime minister at the time, made clear her deep mistrust of social workers, and of feminists. Two days before the inquiry was announced, she was asked if she would “allocate extra funds to deal with the rising rate of child abuse referrals”. She replied simply, “no”.

Support fell behind the police — who, Campbell argues, were the main culprits in enabling abusers to evade justice. “Cleveland had a macho, misogynistic police force,” she says. And, as has been proved time and time again, “asking a patriarchal service to police patriarchal behaviour is pointless”. Cleveland was unlike other authorities, “for example in Leeds, where there was a very well-developed, collegial culture between police, paediatricians, social workers, rape crisis centres”. In Cleveland, by contrast, police “were pretty much told they didn’t have to liaise with other professionals over child sexual abuse, and that was a complete disaster, and one that was repeated in many subsequent child abuse scandals”.

The media also failed, quickly falling in line with the government. National newspapers called for the blood of social workers, and the local Evening Gazette ran a “Give Us Back Our Children” campaign. Ultimately, no perpetrators were identified, let alone charged or convicted. Following the inquiry, 27 families sued the NHS, as well as the council and individual medics, costing the state £1 million in out-of-court settlements.

Campbell tells me that what she finds most cruel in this whole story is that the children at its heart — whose difficulties had prompted responses by professionals — were then subjected to a very public inquisition. Only a handful of those children have ever come forward to tell their stories, and just one has done so both before and after reading her social service records. When, at the age of 40, Minnie* first approached Campbell out of the blue, she asked: “Are there a few of us, like me?”

In Minnie’s eyes, Marietta Higgs — who one journalist at the time of the inquiry described as “the most hated woman in Britain” — was a hero. Minnie met her after being referred to social services at the age of 10, following her brother’s revelations about child sexual abuse at the hands of their sadistic stepfather. Minnie was examined by Higgs, who found signs of rape. Higgs made Minnie feel safe. “She was my saviour,” she says.

For Campbell, this is what a good child protection system looks like: “The abused child who describes an experience of feeling saved.” And yet, the name of Marietta Higgs has long been used as a warning against overactive imaginations in social workers, doctors or other advocates for children. It has been evoked to discredit victims who choose to speak out later in life, as Minnie has.

The disgrace of it is that, when her name was first being dragged through mud, secret documents that vindicated Higgs’s conclusions were circulating around Westminster. A confidential dossier put together by the Northern Regional Health Authority was sent to the Ministry of Health in 1988 and presented to Parliament. It exonerated Higgs and accepted that around 70-75% of the diagnoses were correct. Campbell got hold of the document while updating her original book on Cleveland. She assumed that Higgs had read it, but when she visited her at her home in 2017, discovered she had not. Higgs has since retired.

One of the many disappointing things about the Cleveland scandal is that it had been preceded by a moment of enlightenment, largely triggered by feminist activism: people working in health and social services had been paying better attention to testimony about sexual abuse. Campbell sees the scandal as “a devastating example of a backlash against what feminists had achieved: as a result, all of that learning was thrown away, squandered, and condemned”.

As a result, the campaign by Cleveland parents, and the public humiliation of the doctors at the heart of the scandal, focused on the accused adults, rather than the vulnerable children. Jean La Fontaine, a professor emeritus at the London School of Economics who specialised in the study of sexual abuse, told the inquiry:

“Whenever we come to consider this issue, the children seem to get lost in the system. In the public inquiry, and before it, we heard a lot about parents’ rights. Perhaps it’s one of the tragedies of Cleveland that the children’s voices have not been heard.”

The legacy of this, which lasts to this day, is tragic. “It shaped the entire approach to child protection politics for three decades, and was completely catastrophic,” says Campbell. Services today are still heavily influenced by what happened in 1987, in that few children are believed, and it is almost impossible to secure a conviction when they are. We just have to look at the so-called grooming gangs scandals in Rochdale, Rotherham and elsewhere to see how children are routinely disbelieved. “We now have a situation where, if you want to sexually abuse children, you can just do it, because you will get away with it,” says Campbell.

This could have been stopped in 1987, when there was a unique opportunity in Cleveland to bring the prevalence of child sexual abuse out of the shadows. Instead, it set back the issue significantly. It plunged Britain back into a dark age, by telling future generations of abused children that if they spoke out, they would not be listened to. It also created professional anxiety among doctors and social workers, who feared being treated as Marietta Higgs was.

Campbell met endless obstacles in the course of her reporting, from unobtainable documents to the influence of “false memory” organisations on the general public. Campbell even found herself arguing with her publishers’ “sensitivity readers”, who were offended by the description of “anal dilation” being used to detect whether the children had been anally raped. “I am offended at child rape, and those that seek to cover it up,” she tells me. The truth is gruesome, but that doesn’t mean we should hide from it.

As for the Cleveland children, they are now well into adulthood. Aside from the small number that have ever spoken out, where are they now? “We don’t know what happened to them because there was no follow-up,” says Campbell. “It would be like 121 children falling off a cliff in a bus and surviving terrible injuries, and nobody was interested in how they managed.” We can only hope her reporting is the first step towards the public hearing these children’s stories again — and, this time, believing them.

 

*This name has been changed.


Julie Bindel is an investigative journalist, author, and feminist campaigner. Her latest book is Feminism for Women: The Real Route to Liberation. She also writes on Substack.

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Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
7 months ago

I remember reading about Marietta Higgs and the Cleveland Cases at the time. I recall sharing the scepticism of the allegations put forward regarding the claims of widespread sexual abuse and was particularly influence by reading a book by Elisabeth Loftus regarding the plasticity of human memory at the time. It seemed to me perfectly possible for a feminist doctor who had a obsessive belief in the the evils of the patriarchy and men’s oppressive sexual appetites to have persuaded herself and children regarding sexual abuse that had not in fact happened. A midwife I knew who knew Marietta Higgs also gave me the impression that she was such an obsessed woman.

It is the common experience of life that people are over ready to believe events occurred that fit in with their beliefs and ideology. It is also commonplace to observe that one can be convinced that something happened only to be surprised that objective evidence shows that it did not and to observe this phenomenon in others. Indeed it is a notable feature of evidence that genuine recall of incidents will differ.

Of course, many genuine cases of abuse may well have been uncovered as suggested in this article and it is indeed a pity but entirely understandable given the pressure on resources that no follow up study was undertaken on the cases. Undoubtedly the inherent skepticism of men and women who have no desire to abuse children and find it hard to accept such practices might be more widespread than they could conceive may have resulted in genuine abuse uncovered by a Higgs not receiving the acceptance it ought. Unfortunately automatic ly believing all children is as fraught with risk of injustice as automatically believing all women or believing the testimony of Nick to be “credible and true”. turned out to be.. This is something that ideology can blind one to. Unfortunately often genuine evil will flourish because the evidence as to its existence is not strong enough to overcome inherent scepticism.

Last edited 7 months ago by Jeremy Bray
Michael K
Michael K
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

“believing all children” and “believing all women” are strategies that must be employed at the start of any abuse/assault investigation. If not then the accuser will often go unheard because of prejudices held by the investigator.
That doesn’t mean that courts convict on that belief, it means that the victims get a fairer hearing, a fairer investigation and a better chance of justice.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
7 months ago
Reply to  Michael K

I think the “believe all children/women” approach is mistaken since the proper approach is simply to take any allegation seriously but also consider confounding evidence. If you approach things on a believe basis you are bound to seek confirmation evidence and fail to weigh properly any confounding evidence. Belief is best kept in the sphere of religion.

mike otter
mike otter
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

And “religion” would be a good way to describe the UKs judicial and police systems. You may as well employ a tokolosh to read chicken entrails as rely on these clowns.

Alan Osband
Alan Osband
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I have missed out on getting treatment for prostate cancer ( too late now ) because the police and others refused to take seriously my allegations about a highly influential doctor who has been pretending to be my doctor off and on for over 30 years . He was involved in a money scam with my brother over family companies and with a small business I backed , when I had a drug issue . Though the irony is HE was talking ,when I first met him ,class A drugs and I wasn’t ( at that point) .

Last edited 7 months ago by Alan Osband
Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
7 months ago
Reply to  Michael K

For the police the job isn’t to believe or disbelieve anyone. It’s up to them to decide whether or not there is enough evidence to send the case to the Criminal Justice System. Everyone has a role but no one is judge, jury and executioner.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
7 months ago
Reply to  Helen Nevitt

I think the police job is to enforce the rule of law. It has a fleeting relationship with getting charges laid that will hold up in court.

Robert Lloyd
Robert Lloyd
7 months ago
Reply to  Michael K

All allegations should be taken seriously, not BELIEVED in the first instance. Any investigation into crime should be disinterested less bias prejudice the truth.

Oliver McCarthy
Oliver McCarthy
7 months ago
Reply to  Michael K

97% of rape claims turn out to be groundless. If the police believed 3% of women instead of all of them they could get on with dealing with real crimes.

Douglas H
Douglas H
7 months ago

Where did you get that statistic from?

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
6 months ago
Reply to  Douglas H

His misogynistic imagination

Vir Raga
Vir Raga
7 months ago

Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Richard M
Richard M
7 months ago
Reply to  Michael K

““believing all children” and “believing all women” are strategies that must be employed at the start of any abuse/assault investigation. If not then the accuser will often go unheard because of prejudices held by the investigator.”

I understand the sentiment but I think the wording is unhelpful.

“Believe all children/women” is too easily inferred to mean “Believe the guilt of the accused.” As such it is clearly inimical to any system of justice which includes the presumption of innocence.

I think a more helpful terminology would be “Assume the accusation is credible”. Investigators can then proceed with enquiries until the evidence (or lack of) dictates one way or the other, as they should. Only a small semantic change but it removes the implication that the police have pre-judged the guilt of the accused.

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
6 months ago
Reply to  Michael K

Michael, don’t bother. They are all a sorry bunch of woman and child hating types and they simply do not care if children were harmed.

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

I should add that one of the features of many/most of the cases diagnosed by Marietta Higgs was that the children either made no allegation or denied that any such abuse had taken place and the allegation relied on RAD tests that were simply unreliable in the sense of providing excessive false positives. A RAD positive could arise from causes other than abuse so my emphasis on false memory was a false memory on my part and Steve Murray’s post jogged my memory regarding the importance of this feature.

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
6 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

More than a few were babies. One died. Some were silent: some talked. Didn’t make a difference in the end.

Martin Butler
Martin Butler
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

But we have to admit there is a tabloid culture in this country – linked to the ‘nanny state’ narrative – in which social workers and other public sector workers are labelled as ‘meddling’ or ‘busy bodies’. But of course when they don’t meddle and they should they are lazy or incompetent. Why can’t we just accept that these are difficult judgements which professionals are bound to get wrong sometimes. (I’d love to see the overpaid writers on the Daily Mail or Telegraph do their job.) But no we have to demonise them to sell more copies, as if it’s just all ‘common sense’.

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

Julie Bindel is a woman on a (money making) mission frequently blinded by prejudice. The problem with rape and sexual abuse is that the negative impact on the falsely accused is probably equal to negative impact of the rape/sexual abuse which is why allegations must be taken extreme seriously but investigated with great sensitivity. The death sentence was abolished not because it was considered morally wrong but because the consequences of a false conviction could not be undone.

Last edited 7 months ago by Aphrodite Rises
Ian Wray
Ian Wray
7 months ago

There is an article available online called ‘the impact of being wrongly accused of abuse’ by the Oxford University’s department of criminology. There is also a book ‘Wrongful Allegations of sexual and child abuse’, edited by Ros Burnett. There were many, many cases of wrongful allegations of such abuse, including a substantial number with innocent people sent to jail (e.g. the young woman jailed in the ‘Wee Care’ case). This all started in the USA from a mixture of extreme feminist demonisation of men, combined with widely held beliefs in ‘satanic ritual sexual abuse’ that stemmed from a book ‘Michelle Remembers’. There also developed a false belief that almost any psychological problems whatsoever stemmed from sexual abuse. There was the rise of the ‘recovered memories’ movement, associated with what was actually often the development of false memories. The American preoccupation with all this spread to the UK by the late 1980s/early 1990s. It resulted in various scandals in the UK involving false allegations, such as the Cleveland, Shieldfield, and Orkney scandals. The book ‘The Great Children’s Home Panic’ by Richard Webster discusses another such scandal, and also some of the history of such false allegations and scandals.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
7 months ago
Reply to  Ian Wray

While I agree there have been false allegations of sexual abuse, many of these claims are easily confirmed. For young children, torn tissue in the vagina or a**s show obvious signs of abuse. However, if the abuse is sporadic, it is harder to determine the abuse. In many cases, like the McMartin case in the U.S., coaching was obvious. Children claiming that elephants and giraffes were killed in the daycare center was one reason to question the children’s claims.

David Morley
David Morley
7 months ago
Reply to  Ian Wray

Yes – the thing that is really in need of study is the mass psychology and social contagion that leads such views to establish themselves and to spread. We have waves of these panics, and as you note American panics are soon followed by panics in the U.K.

And any story which has men as the villains is quickly jumped on and spread by feminists – as a way of promoting and spreading their movement and its ideology.

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
6 months ago

That is utterly disgusting. She has worked for years campaigning against sexual violence. If you think there is ‘money’ in it, you’re delusional.
Christ, I’m done with you lot – you’re dregs.

David Morley
David Morley
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

It’s hard not to be sceptical in this case. This is a radical feminist, supporting a radical feminist, who is defending a discredited radical feminist. And relates to a time when social work was subject to ideological capture by feminism (enlightenment in JBs terms).

A solid, balanced review of this book by someone less partisan would have been better.

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
6 months ago
Reply to  David Morley

Just been to a talk given by Campbell. The evidence presented was using a model developed by a male Hispanic doctor several years ago. Several of the children had clear signs of frequent a**l penetration. I’m repeating that – several of the children had clear signs of frequent a**l penetration. 30 paedaetric doctors reviewed this evidence and of these 27 – count em – 27 agreed the children had been abused. these doctors were just doctors, many male. Not radical feminists or social workers or anyone else who you want to dismiss and demonise. Thatcher and her banker head of department ensured that no resources were supplied to follow up on the children and the understate secretary for Health who wanted to pursue the matter was undermined. Thatcher who by the way knew all about Cyril Smith – as did many other MPs – and did not care.
A later parliamentary review concluded that 80 per cent of the original 120 children had been abused but – here’s the kicker – no resources were to be allocated. This is all a matter of record
So there you have it – before you dismiss Campbell’s book why don’t you actually read it in full and then make your own judgement. But you won’t do that David because you all you care about is male narcissism – quite a lot of those children were male you know. It could have been you.
In regards to Saville, Lambeth’s children’s homes et all, and Cyril Smith, everyone knows that the children were not lying.
People can’t face up to familial abuse and people like you can’t face up to reality.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
7 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

It seems that the test that Marietta Higgs depended on is today discredited as a sole indicator of child abuse. Too many false positives.
Reflex a**l dilation – Wikipedia

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
6 months ago

Most of the children were repeatedly being taken to the doctor for problems relating to ‘a sore bottom’ – it was on their medical records.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
7 months ago

One of the key elements in this case, if i recall correctly, was that the infamous ‘a**l dilation’ test was prone to producing false positives, which those who conducted them were only too ready to accept since it was a relatively new diagnostic method and conferred some professional kudos on those (such as Higgs) for promoting it.

I’d have liked to have read more about this, from an objective scientific point of view. Instead, we appear to be left with a series of claims and counter-claims which then become conflated with the willingness of authorities to brush inconvenient truths under the carpet, as happened with the grooming gangs.

Edit: asterisks inserted by Unherd. How ridiculous that these things can’t be discussed without the prurience police helping to “brush under the carpet.”

Last edited 7 months ago by Steve Murray
Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
7 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I totally agree. For a start, it would be informative to know whether the dilation test is still used, whether it has been used extensively but now replaced by a more advanced test or whether it was discredited.

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
6 months ago

why are none of you interested in what the children said? Do you think all children are witless, just ‘influenced’ to lie or what?
My god.

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
6 months ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Plus what no one is mentioning is that several of the children did say they were being abused – mostly male as it happens. They were not listened to or followed up because the police and the government department did not want negative publicity caused b the families protesting.
Do you think abusers don’t routinely protest their innocence?
The job of professionals is to uncover the truth – and to protect children. This is not about ideology, whether feminist, left or right wing ‘family values’ ‘
The job is to have the skills to interview children who can speak and to follow up on investigations.
Social workers who remove children from abusive homes are always demonised . Of course children are not necessarily better off in care where they have often been predated on.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
7 months ago

I covered the Cleveland sex abuse scandal as it happened and lived and breathed the whole thing for years really.
Some of the kids were probably abused, but the a**l dilatation test was a bag of hammers, many completely innocent people were enmeshed in nightmares and the local social services became so in thrall to the docs they went mental, getting the plod in to snatch kids, literally from the arms of parents, at 3 o’clock in the morning.
It was a mess..the feminists like Bea Campbell descended on the whole thing afterwards… in a way it was a bit like Covid. There was a bit in the doctors ideas, but not enough to justify the crazy actions of the authorities who just went way to far all in.
It was one of the first such scandals where I thought, something’s changing in Britain, people are losing their common-sense and believing in anything.

mike otter
mike otter
7 months ago
Reply to  Ted Ditchburn

Exactly what happens when medicine is replaced by ideological dogma – this flavour happended to be judeo-christian-marxist, Covid was 98% marxism with a small twist of abrahamic doctrine

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
6 months ago
Reply to  Ted Ditchburn

27 out of 30 doctors agreed that 80 per cent of the identified children had been abused. That is a lot more than ‘probably’
We know from the Lambeth care home case, the Saville Case , the police incompetence in dealing with the Wests -which was partly because the force concern were using Rosemary’s prostitution services, that getting it right in this field has been very difficult.
People don’t want to believe that families rape their own children – but they do.

Kirk Susong
Kirk Susong
7 months ago

Ms Bindel (again) misses the whole point. The key thing is simply ignored in this essay – the key thing being, just how do we tell if child abuse has happened? Are self-reports sufficient to establish it? (No) So what is the evidence that we look to, when the physical evidence is insufficient? Why was the evidence read one way decades ago, and is read a different way today?
While (almost) everyone is opposed to child abuse, it is *here* that our cultural divides come out. If the parents have liberal views of sexuality does that make the child’s self-reports more or less likely? How about if the parents have conservative views? How about if parents are divorced?
Notice Ms Bindel wants us to look at (for example) whether the police have a ‘good relationship’ with local rape counselors, whether the police bear the hallmarks of ‘patriarchy,’ etc. These are her ideological cues.
These are the key details that *actually* underlay why there are conflicting opinions about whether abuse has happened. And it is the shifting tide of public opinion about these broader issues that causes our conclusions to vary.

Last edited 7 months ago by Kirk Susong
Jane Davis
Jane Davis
6 months ago
Reply to  Kirk Susong

No, Kirk – it is about listening to children and talking to them in ways they understand without ‘leading them’ plus not ignoring medical evidence and not capitulating to parents or anybody else with a vested interest in hiding their offending.

Frank Carney
Frank Carney
7 months ago

But surely Ms Bindel, the children of Rotherham and Rochdale were believed…and ignored.

Aw Zk
Aw Zk
7 months ago
Reply to  Frank Carney

That’s correct, although it could be said to be an understatement. The victims of Rotherham, Rochdale and elsewhere were believed, especially by the social workers who worked most closely with them. However, when it came to taking action to protect them the police were unwilling to do so and managers within other organisations (social services, NHS, education) and politicians (including at least one Home Secretary and one Prime Minister who were contacted by at least one family of a child victim each) didn’t want the public to know what was happening.
The victims were not ignored. The victims were silenced.

Ray Ward
Ray Ward
7 months ago
Reply to  Aw Zk

No-one has directly mentioned that the Rotherham, Rochdale etc. cases had a racial element, which was, of course, entirely absent in Cleveland. The main reason why for a very long time nothing was done to the perpetrators was not because the victims were disbelieved, but because the abusers came from ethnic minorities and there was fear of rocking the race relations boat.

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
6 months ago
Reply to  Aw Zk

but eventually they weren’t . And no thanks to male policeman but thanks to female social workers and health workers who did not dismiss them as white trash whores. Which many of the men on this site would have done without prior knowledge of the truth.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
7 months ago
Reply to  Frank Carney

Wrong kind of perpetrators I fear

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
6 months ago
Reply to  Frank Carney

and they would have been disbelieved by most of the posters on this forum if their attackers were white right leaning middle aged men.

Last edited 6 months ago by Jane Davis
Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
7 months ago

If 70-75% of allegations were true, that means 25-30% of the parents had their children unjustly removed. It’s typical of Julie Bindel that she seems to think this is a satisfactory outcome.
And false memory syndrome turned out to be just that, false.

Richard M
Richard M
7 months ago

Ignoring child abuse while denigrating Doctors and social workers, on the one hand, and taking children away from innocent parents, on the other, aren’t the only two choices though. Or at least they shouldn’t be.

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
6 months ago
Reply to  Richard M

thanks for being sane.

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
6 months ago

Nobody was removed, Dougie. Because of the protests, the eighty per cent who were abused were left in those families with no follow up.

Daniel Lee
Daniel Lee
7 months ago

The progressive Left has been working for decades to undermine parents and the family structure and put itself in the position of managing children’s lives, supposedly because parents are physically and emotionally abusive but really because they resist the woke ideology the Left is determined to inflict on us. We see this today most clearly in the gender-fluidity campaign in medicine and schools. Don’t believe a thing politicized “care professionals” say about such things; they are utterly unreliable. It is simply absurd to think that such a number of kids could have really been being abused.

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
6 months ago
Reply to  Daniel Lee

why, you twit. I happen to know in person several people who have been sexually abused by a family member – in a friend group of twenty. The actual – real research – by professionals in the field shows the figure is 20 per cent of children have experienced sexual abuse. This is consistent across many countries and cultures.
This has nothing to do with left or right politics. Your attitude is why children are left to rot and suffer mental health issues for the rest of their lives.
If you don’t work in the field, go talk to people who do and stop spouting ignorant nonsense through fear.

Peter James
Peter James
7 months ago

A horrifying article which ignores both the damage done to families by false accusations (which the author does not address), the total disregard for statistics and the faulty method for diagnosing abuse. The author ignores the damning judicial review. I would also expect that the author will now come out to say that all the lunatic accusations of satanic abuse, in the same period, were also true. I have respected Bindel until this article. Time to cancel my Unherd subscription.

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
6 months ago
Reply to  Peter James

which judicial review?

mike otter
mike otter
7 months ago

Seeing abuse victims and victims of false accusations of abuse used as political footballs by the likes of Higgs, Campbell and Bindel is distressing, whether or not one has direct or close familial experience of such abuse. I very much hope for poetic justice for these characters. I understand Bindel claims to have suffered sexual violence. If this is true then surely she of all people would think twice about using such crimes for political leverage? I see how strong a reaction Bindel receives for her sometimes thoughtful pieces for unherd and was surprised. Having read this article i too wonder if now its time to let her go as a contributor? As was said of SArah Palin – “she’s not thoughtful enough to know she’s not thoughtful enough”

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
6 months ago
Reply to  mike otter

She does not use them as a political football. She has worked tirelessly for women and children who are affected by violence and sexual violence.
False accusations of both rape and child rape are relatively rare – as I have said to the others. Go do some actual research, read what actual professionals, male and female , who have different political beliefs or even no political beliefs, say and then come back when you have been informed.
If you are too weak to even consider the possibility, think about children having to deal with the reality.

Richard M
Richard M
7 months ago

“became the villain — rather than the men accused of gross child sexual abuse.”

Of course this account of child abuse and institutional failings is terrible.

But it’s not right or helpful to treat accused people as villains either. This can and often does lead to equally bad outcomes as multiple miscarriages of justice and media scandals have shown down the years.

This may seem a small point in the light of how Dr Higgs was treated and children failed, but it is fundamental any chance of maintaining a functioning, legitimate system of justice at all.

Oliver McCarthy
Oliver McCarthy
7 months ago

Ah, the joys of “a**l dilation”! Because they really will publish any old shit nowadays.
Yes, whenever common sense and the light of sweet reason about “abuse” threaten to break through, don’t worry, there’ll always be die-hard feminist loonies like Julie Bindel there to revive the darkness of hysteria and paranoia.
“Believe all women/kids/gerbils! Trust the system! The nanny state knows best!”
Livelihoods destroyed! Families smashed! Childhoods lost!
Thank goodness the likes of Julie Bindel don’t have children of their own. (It’s just a pity they can so easily get access to other people’s.)

Ray Ward
Ray Ward
7 months ago

What utter idiocy is at work at Unherd when the simply factual and inoffensive words “a**s” and “a**l” are censored – and “shit” isn’t?

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
6 months ago

Yes, because someone like you who believes that 97 per cent of rape allegations are false should really have kids.
And if you do – god help them.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
7 months ago

False memory syndrome didn’t just come from this example. I dont think Id call it that either. The issue is that children will mirror what inquisitors want them to say. They are that trusting. Its what progressives like about them.
Backwaters are rife with such things:
https://www.cbc.ca/news/entertainment/documentary-directors-canada-satanic-1.6933084
(Apologize to all my family in Saskatchewan.)

edward coyle
edward coyle
7 months ago

I am sorry to be so late to this discussion. I have two memories of the Cleveland issue. As a medical student Geoff Wyatt, the other consultant in the case, was a registrar training in a Manchester children’s hospital and was a committed paediatrician, excellent diagnostician and great teacher. He was also a very blunt no nonsense northerner and when I heard of his involvement my first reaction was, there must be something in this.
At the time I was training in public health and as trainees we arranged lunchtime journal clubs and some of the group ran through the published evidence ( pre-Cleveland) for reflex a**l dilation as a screening test for abuse, ( our interest was less in Cleveland more in assessing screening tests) and found it had a reasonable positive predictive value for the then published papers- which if I remember were not many.
The Butler Sloss inquiry, at great length and cost, did not get to grips with the basic clinical question, whether the test was of value and whether the subsequent clinical diagnoses ( taking into account all other clinical information)were accurate.
Public inquiries do seem to be an expensive and clumsy tool for investigating applied scientific issues – as I think the forthcoming Hallett Inquiry into COVID will add.

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
6 months ago
Reply to  edward coyle

thanks. I am finally getting off Unherd. It would be great to have this lot’s comments disseminated on Mumsnet. To hear what actual parents think of their indifference.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
7 months ago

The issue is whether families care more for their children or does government.
And if its government you have a big problem.
Which is the reason you have to support the existence of families and give them the what they need to be successful.\
So the question becomes, why were alot of families not successful?

Last edited 7 months ago by Bret Larson
Jane Davis
Jane Davis
6 months ago

In fact why don’t you lot just come out with it and say you don’t believe Saville’s victims either – there is a good deal less ‘evidence’ there than there was in this case.

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
6 months ago

Have a crack at reading this and perhaps then review your own posts.
https://jimhopper.com/topics/child-abuse/why-adults-fail-to-protect-children/

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
6 months ago

A little bit more about the infamous Pakistani Rochdale Abuser Cyril Smith
In April 2014, it was reported that there had been 144 complaints against Smith from victims as young as eight years of age. Attempts to prosecute Smith had been blocked. Public authorities—including Rochdale Borough Council, the police, and intelligence services–have been implicated in covering up Smith’s alleged crimes. In 2015, it emerged that Smith had been arrested in the early 1980s in relation to some of these offences; however, a high-level cover-up reportedly led to destruction of evidence, Smith’s rapid release within hours, and the invocation of the Official Secrets Act to prevent the investigating officers from discussing the matter.

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
6 months ago

And here is an excellent balanced piece which also references the Letby case –
https://yorkshirebylines.co.uk/news/home-affairs/the-lucy-letby-inquiry-lessons-from-the-cleveland-inquiry/

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
7 months ago

A number of politicians surrounding Thatcher have been accused of paedophilia. If these accusations were to be true, then it would be an explanation for why the government wanted to hush up the abuse.

Helen Nevitt
Helen Nevitt
7 months ago

Which ones were accused of paedophilia? I recall Leon Brittain was, by Nick I think.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
7 months ago
Reply to  Helen Nevitt

That’s be Nick…. Carl Beech…the paedophile desperate to cover up his own paedophilia. Tom Watson should never have been let off after his role in that particular episode.

Oliver McCarthy
Oliver McCarthy
7 months ago

But they weren’t true. That’s the point.

Jane Davis
Jane Davis
6 months ago

Yes, Leon Brittain.