135,000 tickets were sold for the Glastonbury Festival this year. How many of those attending will have complained that one of the main stages was named after a child abuser? How many even knew? What is the conspiracy of silence that allows a man who has been directly and publicly quoted as saying “Girls used to queue up outside oral sex they were particularly keen on, I remember one of my regular customers, as it were, turned out to be 13, though she looked older.” And “All they wanted me to do was abuse them, sexually, which, of course, I was only too happy to do.” to continue to be so venerated? John Peel’s Festive Fifties may indeed hold treasured memories for many of the music industry’s agenda setters but given that he happily admitted shoving his dick in the mouth of a 13 year old girl, isn’t it time to shove him off his pedestal?
It’s not even a week since Linzi Ashton was found dead in Salford, Greater Manchester. She died from strangulation and multiple injuries resulting from severe beating. Her former boyfriend, Michael Cope is currently wanted by the police for her murder, before she died, he was wanted for raping her. Yet the Police, who confirmed that Cope has a history of violent and aggressive behaviour and represents a risk to the community, have described their relationship as ‘acrimonious’ and this has been picked up and repeated – not challenged and not identified as victim blaming- in multiple press reports. Acrimonious means “caustic, bitter, harsh”, it implies duality. It does not describe a man with a history of physical and sexual violence.
The bodies of a family of three from Ireland, living in Spain were discovered after reportedly being dead several days. It is thought that Philip Wood shot dead his wife Sheila and their daughter Sophie before shooting himself. Press reports have included details of the pressure that Philip Wood was under, of money problems, of Sheila Wood’s ill health and Sophie Wood being disabled, none have looked at the deaths within the context of male violence against women.
FBI files seen and reported by a British newspaper revealed that dead pop star Michael Jackson paid out over £23million to buy the silence of at least two dozen boys he abused over 15 years. The FBI has allegedly held files – which included private investigators’ reports, phone transcripts and hours of audio tapes dating back to 1989 – since 2002. Jackson was cleared of a charge of abusing a child before his death in 2005. The files, despite being in possession of the state, were not passed on to the prosecutors. The state knew and the state kept quiet.
The process of grooming in child sexual abuse has gained wider awareness though the trials of groups of men with multiple victims, including cases in Oxford and Derbyshire. Earlier this month, Jeremy Forrest, a teacher aged 30 was found guilty of five charges of underage sex with a pupil, then 15 years old. Now aged 16, she has spoken to a newspaper and claimed that it was she who groomed her teacher, not the other way round. The interview has been widely reproduced and sensationalised across the press. Grooming is a process by which an abuser gains trust and establishes an emotional connection, making a potential victim feel special as a preparation for abuse, the perpetrator progressively sexualises the relationship. The girl is legally a child and her adult teacher had a duty of care for her. Press reports of a child grooming an adult are collusion with the adult abuser. The collusion suggests that grooming is something that the press can only identify if the perpetrators are groups of Asian men.
38% of all murders of women worldwide are committed by intimate partners
But rather than the increasing awareness of the true extent of male violence against and abuse of women and children leading to an increased condemnation of perpetrators and an increased commitment to end gender based violence, the rising voices of the naysayers, the pointing fingers of the victim-blamers and the deafening silence of those that look the other way seem to me to be getting louder.