Whither the NSPCC?

Ivor Catt 28mar04

Ivor Catt,

121 Westfields,

St. Albans AL3 4JR


Slomail copy to

Mary Marsh,

Director NSPCC,

Freepost WC1613,

London EC2B 2NS


Dear Mary Marsh,

I am mystified and hopeful as a result of the NSPCC research project reported below which contains your name.

There are a large number of reasons why my colleagues and I dismissed all the children’s organisations as anti-family and anti-fatherhood, and therefore in an adversary position to the campaigning by excluded fathers.

I attended the AGM of FYC when the late Baroness Young was keynote speaker. She told us that she had interviewed all the children’s organisations, and found that they were all anti-family (and anti-fatherhood). She said that when she asked them why, they had all replied that were they to act otherwise they would lose their funding, government and other. The report by me at the time on what she said can be found via www.ivorcatt.com/02.htm

My colleagues and I who were invited to attend the Home Office conference on sexual abuse in the family run by Betty Moxon and held at the NSPCC HQ in Leicester in 1999 were appalled by the attitude of all attenders. I was particularly shocked by the attitude of two male employees of the NSPCC who were in my little 15 man discussion group. They were rather extreme poodlemen – male supporters of radical feminism. I could give you more details on their stated hostility to fatherhood, some of which is reported via www.ivorcatt.com/02.htm .

Furedi, q.v., has come out with an article lambasting the NSPCC for being so anti-family and anti-fatherhood.

In stark contrast is your truthful reported research (below) using a large cohort. This is the opposite of the fraudulent “research” we have come to expect from radfem dominated and Home Office-radfem(Betty Moxon) funded “research”, for instance by Stinko of RHC and the Cabinet Office vrp@rhul.ac.uk .

If I should go by the research below, rather than by all the rest of the evidence against all children’s groups and against the NSPCC in particular for its anti-fatherhood stance, then we need to get into discussion.

It is obvious that at some stage the heavily funded, carefully constructed array of falsities generated by such as Stinko will unravel. I thought the time was well into the future, since radfems have large scale control of all of the media. However, should the NSPCC step out of line, and adopt the truthful approach based on properly conducted research, it could rapidly grow in stature and isolate all the other children’s organisations and help to isolate the phoney research. It would also have full support from all the organisations that are springing up to represent excluded fathers. Whether it is yet timely to risk short term loss of funding by radfem-dominated funding agencies such as ESRC, Home Office and Rowntree is of course for you to judge. However, if your priority is the protection of children rather than funding, you need to try to live by your honest research using large cohorts (Stinko uses a cohort of less than 200!) and receive the support of all those who are concerned about the attack on father hood as damaging children. Pace radfem control, the media is beginning to admit that fatherhood is important for the protection of children, so the NSPCC might well prosper greatly from an honest approach.

I look forward to hearing from you in clarification the present policy of the NSPCC. Is it tied to the NSPCC research results outlined below?

Yours faithfully,      Ivor Catt

PS. I happened to hear Furedi F.Furedi@kent.ac.uk speak at a conference centred on Furedi’s new book Therapy Culture: Cultivating Vulnerability in an Uncertain Age;  Frank Furedi

This has led me to learn about his Marxist background. It is rather curious that the Marxist, anti-family background of radfems maps onto Engel’s attack on the family as the seat of oppression for women. Thus, it is odd that Furedi attacks NSPCC for being anti-family. However, obviously Furedi will have had to shed some of his Marxism in order to stay in touch.   Ivor Catt





Next Chief Executive at NSPCC

18 April 2000

Announcing the appointment of Mary Marsh as the next Director and Chief Executive of the NSPCC

.... ....

NSPCC Director Mary Marsh says: Modern myths about child cruelty have
emerged from the public attention given to horrific and frightening cases of
child abuse by strangers. Other traditional stereotypes come from a
historical wellspring of children¹s stories about wicked adult bogey
figures. These stereotypes have become part of popular culture. This report
challenges us to re-examine preconceived ideas about child cruelty. In some
cases it calls on policy-makers and professionals to overhaul thinking and
reconsider how to approach different kinds of child maltreatment. .... ....


“The NSPCC is shameless about its obsession with publicity. Its website proudly displays the logo 'PR Week Award 2003'. A press release published in December 2003 boasts that its 'hard-hitting' cartoon TV and poster campaign gained an award for being 'the best charity ad in the world'. These ads featured a child in the form of a cartoon character who is thrown from wall to wall by a real live father. Viewers see the 'child' having a cigarette stubbed out on his head, being punched and then thrown down the stairs. Another ad portrays images of distraught cartoon babies covering their ears in terror to keep out the noise of their father battering their mother next door. The NSPCC's publicity crusade relentlessly portrays a world where parents, particularly fathers, systematically brutalise their children. …. …. in recent years it has focused its publicity machine against 'parent-danger'; now its addresses its propaganda directly to children. …. …. Another picture showed a loving father cuddling his baby, with the words 'that night he felt like slamming her against the cot' serving as a chilling reminder not to be deceived by appearances.”– Furedi, 19jan04






A Study of the Prevalence of Child Abuse and Neglect

The NSPCC has undertaken a major piece of national research to explore the
childhood experience of young people in the UK, including their experience
of abuse and neglect. This is the only UK study, and one of the few world
wide, to examine child maltreatment comprehensively, in a large random
probability sample of the general population.

The 2,689 young people, aged 18-24 years, were interviewed using Computer
Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) and able to enter their answers
directly to ensure confidentiality.


Common stereotypes about child abuse are overturned in the NSPCC¹s largest
ever study of child maltreatment.

* Myth: the most common form of abuse suffered by children at home is
sexual abuse.

Fact: children are seven times more likely to be beaten badly by their
parents than sexually abused by them.

* Myth: most sexual abuse occurs between fathers and their daughters.

Fact: this type of incestuous relationship is rare, occurring in less than
four in a thousand children. The most likely relative to abuse within the
family is a brother or stepbrother.

* Myth: adults are responsible for most sexual violence against children
and young people outside the family.

Fact: children are most likely to be forced into unwanted sexual activity by
other young people, must usually from someone described as a Oboyfriend.¹
Less than three in a thousand of the young people reported sexual behaviour
against their wishes with professionals working with children.

* Myth: sexual attacks on children from strangers are common.

Fact: sexual assaults involving contact by strangers are very rare. Even
with indecent exposure, only seven per cent of the young people reported
ever having been Oflashed at¹, and just over a third of these said the
person was a stranger.

* Myth: most physical abuse is carried out by men, especially fathers.

Fact: violent acts towards children are more likely to be meted out by
mothers than fathers (49% of the sample experienced this from mothers and
40% from fathers).

NSPCC Director Mary Marsh says: Modern myths about child cruelty have
emerged from the public attention given to horrific and frightening cases of
child abuse by strangers. Other traditional stereotypes come from a
historical wellspring of children¹s stories about wicked adult bogey
figures. These stereotypes have become part of popular culture. This report
challenges us to re-examine preconceived ideas about child cruelty. In some
cases it calls on policy-makers and professionals to overhaul thinking and
reconsider how to approach different kinds of child maltreatment.


Child abuse destroys children¹s lives.

Over the last 100 years the NSPCC has helped to protect hundreds of
thousands of children from cruelty. Yet, at the start of a new millennium,
we do not know the true scale of child abuse and neglect in the UK.

Official data does not paint the whole picture. There are large numbers of
abused children who never see a social worker or police officer and suffer
in silence.

In March 1999, the NSPCC FULL STOP Campaign was launched to create the
conditions whereby cruelty to children can be ended. Hundreds of thousands
of people and organisations from all sectors of society have joined the
campaign since.

But if we are to achieve our ambitious goal, we need to know much more about
those cases of child abuse which go unreported.

With this in mind, the NSPCC conducted a major piece of research which forms
the most authoritative study of child abuse and neglect yet undertaken in
the UK. It is called Child Maltreatment in the United Kingdom - a study of
the prevalence of child abuse and neglect.

The study has three main objectives:

* To help the NSPCC and others develop strategies to prevent child abuse
* To help the NSPCC and others plan effective child protection services
* To provide a benchmark by which the NSPCC and others can measure
progress towards the goal of ending cruelty to children

For ethical and practical reasons, it would have been wrong to interview
children on this subject in this type of survey.

So the study is based on interviews with young people aged 18 - 24 conducted
by survey research company BMRB International between September 1998 and
February 1999.

This is the only UK study, and one of the few world wide, to examine
maltreatment comprehensively, in a large random probability sample of the
general population. The 2,869 young people, aged 18-24 years were
interviewed using Computer Assisted Personal Interviewing (CAPI) and able to
enter their answers directly to ensure confidentiality. They were contacted
through addresses taken randomly from the Postcode Address File, the method
used in all major national surveys.

The interviews covered broad aspects of childhood experience, including
aspects of family life, social relationships, perspectives on child abuse
and experience of abuse and neglect in the family and other contexts.

The sample was drawn from all parts of the UK. Most (56 per cent) were still
living with their parents. Another 18 per cent were living with partners,
while 8 per cent lived alone and 15 per cent had their own children.

The interview questions did not define abuse or neglect but asked the young
people if they had experienced a range of treatments, some positive and some
negative, as children. Respondents who indicated possible childhood abuse or
neglect were asked more detailed questions about their experiences.

The survey achieved a response rate of 69 per cent which is unusually high
for surveys on this topic. Almost all (98%) of the respondents felt the
survey was worthwhile and 85 per cent said that they would definitely be
willing to take part in further NSPCC research.


More than nine in ten of the young people said they grew up in a warm and
loving family.

Child abuse and neglect is largely a family affair. But we should not lose
sight of the fact that most parents and carers are trustworthy - very few
are abusers.

An overwhelming majority of the young people interviewed in this study - 92
per cent - agreed that they had had a warm and loving family background,
with 77 per cent strongly agreeing this. The vast majority had been praised,
hugged, cuddled, kissed or told nice things such as that they were cared
for. Nine out of ten respondents reported close relationships with their
mothers and eight out of ten with their fathers.

Most respondents had some unwelcome experiences during their childhood. One
in three respondents also reported that there was sometimes 'a lot of
stress' in their families and the same proportion reported financial
pressures and worries. Three quarters said they had been shouted or screamed
at some point, four in ten had been called stupid, lazy or a similar name,
and over a quarter said they had been sworn at. Over three quarters of these
experiences had occurred at home.

A smaller number of the young people interviewed gave a picture of a darker
childhood in which they were rarely or never shown affection or were
regularly hit, shouted or sworn at, or went hungry. More than a quarter
(26%) reported violence between their parents and for five per cent the
violence was constant or frequent. A quarter of respondents also said there
were things that happened in their childhood that were hard to talk about.
One in ten strongly agreed with this.


The uncertainty over the ages at which it is safe to leave children Ohome
alone¹, and the concerns about children allowed out late at night
unsupervised by adults, are issues that can be better understood in the
light of this study.

The general picture given by the respondents is one of close supervision by
parents. Between the ages of five and nine only travelling to school alone
was common, usually above the age of seven.

More independence arises after the age of ten but there was a clear pattern
that most children in the UK (88%) are not left at home in the evenings
without adult supervision until they are at least 12, and they don¹t stay at
home unsupervised overnight before they are 14 (91%).

Asked when they were first allowed out overnight without parents knowing
their whereabouts, more than four out of 10 respondents said that this had
not been permitted until they were 16 or 17, and more than a third (36%) of
these 18 ­ 24 year olds said that this still would never be allowed.

But there were some marked exceptions, which indicate that some children
were left unsupervised at a very early age.

Neglect and potential neglect resulting from absence of supervision was
assessed on three levels.

Serious absence of supervision included children first allowed to stay at
home overnight without adult supervision under the age of 10, or first out
overnight without parents knowing their whereabouts, aged under 14. This
category included five per cent of the sample.

Intermediate absence of supervision included those first left unsupervised
overnight aged 10-11, first allowed out overnight, whereabouts unknown at
the age of 14-15 and under 12s frequently left in charge of younger siblings
while parents were out. This category comprised 12 per cent of the sample.

A third group, three per cent of the sample, were rated as showing cause for
concern because they were first left without adult supervision in the
evening, or going to the town centre without an adult or much older child,
when they were under 10 years old.

In total, 20 per cent of the sample, or one in five children, were assessed
as experiencing less than adequate supervision at some point in their

Boys were slightly less likely to be supervised than girls on some measures,
with girls far less likely than boys to have been allowed out overnight.
Respondents in manual occupations were far more likely than those in Owhite
collar¹ or professional occupations to have been allowed out overnight,
whereabouts unknown. Apart from this measure, social grade differences were


More than four out of ten respondents had been bullied or discriminated
against by other children or young people. For eight per cent this happened
regularly over years.

Previous NSPCC research showed that more than half of children aged eight to
15 years sometimes or often worried about being bullied at school and that
younger children worried most. This study throws more light on this problem,
which is known to cause acute misery to many children.

Generally, bullying is defined as:

* occurring over time rather than being a single aggressive act
* involving an imbalance of power ­ the powerful attack the powerless
* psychological, verbal or physical in nature

This study showed that 43 per cent of young people had, at some point in
their childhood, experienced bullying, discrimination or being made to feel
different by other children. Nearly all (94%) of these experiences took
place at school.

When asked why they believed this had happened, the reasons given were
usually personal characteristics over which the young people had no control.
'Size' was given as the reason by a more than a quarter of the respondents.
'Class' (eg. how they spoke or dressed) and intelligence were each cited as
the reason by around a fifth of respondents.

Respondents from black and Asian ethnic groups were less likely than white
respondents to say that they had been bullied (24% compared to 32%) but more
likely to report discrimination (23% compared to 6%). Eight per cent of
those who had been bullied or discriminated against gave 'race' as the
reason. But this masked a huge difference between ethnic groups: almost
seven out of ten respondents from minority ethnic groups who had been
bullied or discriminated against put this down to their race, compared to
just three per cent of white victims.

Name-calling, insults and verbal abuse were most common ­ almost nine in ten
of those bullied said that other children had treated them in this way. This
amounts to 37 per cent of all respondents. One in seven respondents had been
subjected to physical bullying such as hitting or punching, and one in ten
had been threatened with violence. Bullying and discrimination included
damaging or stealing belongings, humiliating, ignoring/not speaking to them,
and telling lies about them or deliberately getting them into trouble.

A fifth of those bullied, equivalent to eight per cent of all respondents,
said that they had been bullied regularly over years. A quarter (10% of the
whole sample) had experienced long-term effects as a result.

The study confirms previous studies suggesting that bullying and
discrimination, especially at school, is one of the most common forms of
harmful aggression experienced by children and young people in the UK.


Seven per cent of the young people suffered serious physical abuse by a
parent or carer.

In England in the year to 31 March 2000, there were 30,300 children on child
protection registers, of which 8,700 were registered for physical injury,
sometimes allied to other forms of abuse and neglect.

The study attempts to distinguish seriously abusive treatment from more
usual forms of physical chastisement.

The young people were asked whether they had ever as a child experienced

* Hit on the bottom with a hard implement such as a stick
* Hit on another part of the body with a hard implement
* Hit with a fist or kicked hard
* Shaken
* Thrown or knocked down
* Beaten up, being hit over and over again
* Grabbed around the neck and choked
* Burned or scalded on purpose
* Threatened with a knife or a gun

A quarter of respondents said they had experienced at least one of these
violent acts either in the family, at school or in another situation. Yet
these are acts which both the present study and previous research have shown
are unacceptable to the great majority (in most instances more than nine out
of 10) of the UK population.

* 78% experienced this violence at home
* 15% at school
* 13% in a public place

Within the family it is primarily birth parents who mete out violent
treatment. Of those who were treated violently in childhood:

* 49 per cent were treated violently by their mother
* 40 per cent by their father
* 5 per cent by their stepfather
* 3 per cent by their stepmother

Bruising was by far the most common injury suffered as a result of violence,
but respondents also reported broken bones, head injuries, bites and burns.

The study graded the childhood maltreatment on three levels:

* Serious physical abuse was where the violent treatment either caused
injury or carried a high risk of injury if continued over time or throughout
* Intermediate physical abuse was where violent treatment occurred
occasionally but caused no injury, or where other physical
treatment/discipline was used regularly over the years and/or led to
physical effects such as pain, soreness or marks lasting at least until next
* Cause for concern was where the injury or potential harm was not
immediately serious but where less serious physical treatment/discipline
occurred regularly and indicated problems in parenting or the quality of
care which could escalate or lead to continued distress for a child.

The study found that seven per cent of the young people had suffered serious
physical abuse at the hands of their parents or carers.

There was a strong link between the socio-economic status of the young
person and serious physical abuse. Young people in semi-skilled or unskilled
manual jobs were three times more likely to have suffered serious physical
abuse than those in professional jobs.

Another fourteen per cent of respondents suffered at the intermediate level
of physical abuse. And a final three per cent came from families where there
was cause for concern about how children were treated.

In total, more than a fifth of respondents suffered physically to some
degree. Their parents or carers, at least sometimes, breached the standards
shown by previous research to be accepted by the vast majority of people.

Girls were slightly more likely than boys to be seriously physically abused
by parents or carers but boys were a little more likely to have experienced
physical abuse at intermediate levels.


Six per cent of the young people were subjected to serious physical neglect
at home.

In England in the year to 31 March 2000, there were 30,300 children on
protection registers, of which 14,000 were registered for neglect, sometimes
allied to other forms of abuse.

Physical neglect: lack of physical care

Almost all the young people questioned took for granted that their parents
or carers would provide food, clean clothes and medical care. Less than one
in a hundred reported frequent failures of care on these issues. Small
numbers of respondents also reported lack of care on other individual

* Three per cent often had to look after themselves due to their parents
problems with alcohol or drugs
* Two per cent regularly had to look after themselves because their
parents went away
* Less than one per cent said they were allowed to go into dangerous
places, that their home was dangerous or unclean, or that they were

As with physical abuse, lack of physical care and nurturing was assessed on
three levels.

Serious lack of care was identified as lack of care which carried a high
risk of injury or long-term harmful effects.

Those who were seriously neglected as a child

* frequently went without food as a young child
* frequently were not looked after or taken to the doctor when ill as a
young child
* frequently went to school in dirty clothes as a young child
* regularly had to look after themselves because parents went away or had
drug or alcohol problems
* were abandoned or deserted
* lived in a home with dangerous conditions

Intermediate lack of care was identified when the lack of care was less
serious but happened regularly, or was serious but happened only
occasionally (for example, occasionally went hungry because there was no
food to eat).

Cause for concern was identified when the lack of care was not serious but
indicated problems in parenting or quality of care (eg. respondents said
that they had been given no dental care as a child, sometimes had to go to
school in dirty clothes, or lived in an unclean home).

The study found that six per cent of respondents had suffered serious
absence of physical care by their parents or carers.

The study underlines the links between child neglect and social
disadvantage. Respondents in semi or unskilled employment were ten times
more likely to have experienced serious absence of care in childhood than
were respondents who were in professional jobs and almost twice as likely as
those in higher education.

Another nine per cent of respondents experienced intermediate lack of care
with a further two percent indicating some cause for concern. In total, 18
per cent of respondents experienced absence of care to some level in their


Six per cent of the young people were emotionally maltreated consistently in

Emotional maltreatment is not a new phenomenon ­ history is littered with
examples of emotionally abusive and neglected childhoods. However, in terms
of child protection thinking in this century, emotional or psychological
maltreatment is a comparative newcomer. It was only in 1980 that emotional
abuse was introduced as a criterion for children on child protection

Previous research concluded that emotional abuse is the Omost hidden and
underestimated form of child maltreatment¹ ­ unlike other forms of abuse, it
leaves no physical injuries. Emotional maltreatment is inextricably linked
with all forms of abuse and neglect, all of which can create fear, guilt,
loss of self esteem and self confidence, and isolation from the support of
other people.

There is evidence that with all abuse and neglect it is often the
psychological damage that lasts longest. But while other forms of
maltreatment can show physical evidence, emotional maltreatment, when it
occurs alone, is often not visible to others and is the hardest form to deal
with through child protection procedures. This is why there has been so
little research and so little evidence about it.

This study is the first general population research into the prevalence of
emotional maltreatment in the UK.

The experiences of each respondent were grouped and analysed according to
seven types of emotional treatment. Most maltreatment in these categories
was by parents or carers.

* Terrorising ­ threats to harm the child, someone or something the child
loves, threatening with fear figures, threats to have the child sent away,
making the child do something that frightens them.
* Proxy attacks by harming someone or something the child loves or
values. This could include deliberate attacks on the child¹s possessions or
pets, and also includes violence between carers.
* Psychological control and domination, including attempts to overly
control the child¹s thinking, and isolation from other sources of support
and development.
* Psycho/physical control and domination - physical acts which exert
control and domination causing distress rather than pain or injury, such as
washing out the mouth with soap.
* Humiliation and degradation ­ psychological attacks on the child¹s
worth or self esteem, which could be verbal or non-verbal.
* Withdrawal ­ withholding of affection and care, exclusion from the
family (including showing preference for siblings and excluding the child
from benefits given to other children in the family).
* Antipathy ­ showing marked dislike of the child by word or deed

The most common emotional maltreatment was Oterrorising¹. Over a third of
respondents reported some of the experiences in this category. The most
common was of being Osometimes really afraid of my father/ stepfather¹
followed by threats of being sent away.

A quarter had experienced extreme psychological domination, with parents who
were unpredictable and/or allowed them no freedom of thought or expression.

Almost a fifth of respondents had experienced physical punishments such as
having their mouths washed out with soap or their noses rubbed in wet
sheets, or had experienced constant verbal attack such as being told
throughout their childhood that they were stupid, or that their parents
wished them dead or never born.

One in ten had loveless childhoods, reporting that parents never showed them
affection and excluded them from treats the other children were getting,
while a similar proportion had experienced seeing a parent or a pet harmed
or had treasured possessions destroyed in proxy attacks.

Most people have unpleasant, frightening or embarrassing experiences at some
time, even with loved members of their families, but these experiences are
usually occasional events. Emotional maltreatment is persistent and
pervasive to a level that can destroy the child¹s self confidence, happiness
and trust in other people.

The research assessed this by looking at how many of these experiences the
child had on the seven dimensions and assigning a score between 0 and 14. A
score of seven or more meant that the respondent had experienced damaging
treatment on at least four of the seven dimensions.

In all six per cent of respondents had scores of seven or more and were
assessed as experiencing serious emotional maltreatment. Young women were
twice as likely to have high scores as young men.

These findings indicate that a small proportion of respondents experienced
multiple attacks on their emotional well-being within their family for much
or all of their childhood.

However, the study also shows that a much larger number of the respondents
experienced parenting which was at times insensitive. Parents who tell their
children that they wish they were dead or had never been born, for example,
may be reacting to stress or family crisis rather than expressing a
genuinely held long-term view, but it is hard to imagine a more hurtful
thing to say to a child.


One per cent of the young people suffered sexual abuse by a parent or carer
and three per cent by another relative.

In England in the year to 31 March 2000, there were 30,300 children on
protection registers, of which 5,600 were registered for sexual abuse,
sometimes allied to other forms of abuse and neglect.

Sexual abuse within the family

The laws on sexual offences against children are currently under review. In
July 2000, a Home Office Review proposed replacing current sexual offences
such as incest with a range of new offences including familial sexual abuse,
adult sexual abuse of a child and sexual activities between minors. This
study increases our understanding of the way that sexual offences affect
children, whether committed inside and outside the family.

In the study, 18-24 year olds were asked whether they had ever experienced
any from a list of sexual acts when they were under 16. Respondents were
also asked whether these activities had taken place against their wishes or
with their consent, at what age it had happened and how old the other person
was. This information was used to assess whether they had experienced sexual

Their answers were grouped as follows according to the nature and
seriousness of the activities.

* Penetrative or oral acts involving sexual or anal intercourse, oral
sex, or the insertion of finger, tongue or object into the vagina or anus.
* Attempted penetrative or oral acts, as above.
* Touching or fondling the respondents' sex organs or private parts,
getting the respondent to touch a person's sex organs or sexually arouse
* Sexual hugging or kissing.
* Being videoed for pornographic purposes, shown pornographic videos,
magazines, computer images or photos, or being made or encouraged to watch
other people having intercourse or performing sex or pornographic acts
* A person exposing sex organs for to excite themselves or to shock the

Relatively small numbers of the young people had experienced sexual abuse by
family members.

One per cent of the young people had been sexually abused by a parent or
step-parent, nearly always the male parent. Nearly all involved sex acts
involving genital or anal physical contact. Very few said they had been used
by a parent to make pornography, made to watch sex acts or exposure. Male
and female respondents were equally likely to have been abused by parents.

Three per cent of the young people had been sexually abused by a relative
other than a parent. Three quarters of this group were young women. A wide
range of relatives were involved - nearly all were male, with brothers and
step-brothers mentioned most often. Again, most of this involved genital or
anal physical contact, with one per cent being used to make pornography, or
made to watch sex acts or exposure.

One in ten of the young people had experienced penetrative sex, oral sex or
attempts at these against their will by people known but unrelated to them.
A large number reported the use of physical force or threat.

Sexual abuse outside the family

Far more of the respondents had experienced unwanted sexual behaviour with
non-relatives than with family members. Nearly all occurred with people
known to the child, the vast majority with 'boyfriends' and 'girlfriends'.

Penetrative or oral sex acts which occurred against the young people's
wishes or with people at least 5 years older

* 70 per cent occurred with 'boyfriends' or 'girlfriends'
* 17 per cent occurred with 'someone recently met'
* 10 per cent occurred with a fellow student or pupil
* 6 per cent occurred with a friend of parent or sibling
* 4 per cent occurred with neighbours
* 4 per cent occurred with a female stranger
* 3 per cent occurred with a male stranger
* 2 per cent occurred with babysitters

Very few respondents reported sexual activity involving professionals
responsible for their care, and none involving care workers.

The only unwanted sexual activity experienced frequently from strangers was
indecent exposure. But even among the seven per cent who reported this,
respondents were twice as likely to experience it from a known person than
from a stranger.

Up to 75 per cent of those reporting sexual acts against their wishes or
with someone much older were female. More than nine out of ten of these
young women reported that the other person concerned was male. For the young
men who reported similar experiences, the picture was more mixed.

Sexual incidents most often took place either in the respondent's own home
or in the home of the other person. Other locations were rarely mentioned,
except for indecent exposure, where 30 per cent of incidents occurred in an
open place such as woods or parks, or abandoned buildings.

Where respondents reported actual or attempted oral or penetrative sex
against their wishes, physical force and blackmail had been commonly used.
Force had been used in six out of ten attempts to coerce them into oral or
penetrative sex attacks and blackmail in four out of ten attempts.

Most sexual behaviour which is unwanted or involves a much older person
occurs in adolescence. Around three quarters of male and female respondents
who experienced actual or attempted oral or penetrative acts against their
wishes or with an older person were aged between 13-15 years when it first

Only 28 per cent of the young people who had experienced sexual acts which
were unwanted or involving a much older person told anyone about at the
time; 27 per cent told someone later, and 31 per cent had never told anyone.
Of those who had told someone, most had told a friend, while a minority had
told a parent or other relative. Hardly anyone had told police, social
services or other professionals.

Six per cent of respondents reported having been involved in 'consensual'
sexual behaviour when aged 13-15, with someone five or more years older than


Families are the primary source of love and nurturing for nearly all
children. But significant minorities of children are confronted - either
occasionally or regularly - by stresses, problems and abusive behaviour with
which they should not have to cope.

For many children too, the wider world of school, friends and community is
one which is fraught with the threats of bullying, discrimination and -
particularly for girls - sexual harassment and violence.

This study underlines the need for children's voices to be heard by the
people who can help them. Children need the self-confidence to speak out and
someone they trust and in whom they can confide.

Large numbers of children find it too difficult to talk about the abuse and
difficulties which they face in their lives. If they do tell someone, it is
very unlikely to be a professional concerned with their care. In this way,
distressing and harmful childhood experiences can remain hidden for many

In terms of severity and frequency, there are different levels of child
maltreatment. When children at risk of significant harm are identified,
children¹s services must act quickly and decisively to protect them. And
firm action against carers may be appropriate when a child has suffered
serious abuse or neglect.

However, not all cruelty to children is planned or intended to cause harm.
Our approach to child protection must be a sophisticated one, geared up for
preventing child abuse and neglect.

Although children from all social backgrounds can suffer maltreatment, the
study found strong links between serious physical abuse or neglect and
socio-economic grade. This indicates that children in families facing
poverty and social exclusion are particularly vulnerable.

If we are serious about reducing the incidence of child cruelty, we must
give more support to those families pushed to the limits by extreme stress,
medical conditions or socio-economic pressures.

This report presents a challenge to society in general, and professionals
and policy-makers in particular, to create the conditions whereby no child
has to worry about going hungry or being assaulted in the family home.

It also challenges us to rethink the ways we support families in the UK and
care for children both inside and outside the family setting. Most child
abuse goes unreported or undetected. We need to find ways to reach its many
hidden victims.

We know that cruelty to children can be brought to a full stop, if the will
to do so exists.


The United Kingdom is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the
Rights of the Child. Article 3 of the Convention requires that 'States
Parties undertake to ensure the child such protection and care as is
necessary for his or her well-being' and Article 19 requires 'protection
from all forms of maltreatment perpetrated by parents or caretakers'. The
present survey shows a number of ways in which we should be improving the
protection that we offer to our children. Some require further research to
increase knowledge and some could be implemented now on the basis of our
existing knowledge.

Recommendation 1: A general population survey of the prevalence of
maltreatment should be carried out at regular intervals not exceeding 10

Recommendation 2: A national incidence study of all known cases of child
maltreatment should be developed as part of regular service monitoring, to
collate reports from social services, health services, schools, voluntary
agencies, the probation service and police.

Recommendation 3: A permanent database of all fatal child abuse and neglect
cases should be maintained by Department of Health and the Home Office. This
should include all child homicides, and should be available for research and
for the preparation of training materials for professionals working with
child fatalities.

Recommendations 4: Research is needed which examines the basis of
differential assessment of child maltreatment by victims and professionals
in more detail than hitherto.

Recommendation 5: Training for those investigating allegations of
maltreatment and for judges and other lawyers dealing with the court process
should make them aware that, for a variety of reasons, victims may minimise
their experience, even when they have suffered considerable harm.

Recommendation 6: Better, more accessible public information is needed for
children and their families on the nature of child maltreatment. This would
assist children to recognise when the treatment they or children in their
families receive is unacceptable. It would help adults to recognise when
children known to them may need protection.

Recommendation 7: Research, practice and training initiatives are needed to
enlarge our knowledge and understanding of neglect and emotional
maltreatment, and to establish a consensual base for the development of
standards of care, an appropriate legal framework, and measures of
Osignificant harm¹.

Recommendation 8: Strategies for dealing with sexual abuse inside and
outside the family should be reviewed, to ensure that they address
adequately the different characteristics of these situations. Implications
for training for the professionals involved are particularly important.

Recommendation 9: We should take very seriously the evidence that physical,
sexual and psychological attack from peers (including siblings and step-
siblings) are the most common abusive experiences faced by young people and
address the issues of cultures which promote physical and sexual aggression
among young people. Schools and youth services have a major part to play
here, but so also does the media, and community initiatives could be
particularly valuable where young people experience the streets as unsafe.

Recommendation 10: Urgent attention is needed to providing forms of help
with sexual abuse which can be easily and confidentially accessed by young

Recommendation 11: The British Crime Survey should be expanded to cover
crimes against children under 16. Crime statistics should report the ages of

Recommendation 12: Agencies providing child protection services should
review their strategies, including training and management support, for
identifying and working with maltreatment in middle class families.

Recommendation 13: Research is needed on the dynamics of family violence to
assist professionals in identifying the different situations in which
violence and emotional maltreatment can arise. Strategies for protecting
children will need to be quite different if the problems result from
situational pressures such as illness or poverty than if they result from
fundamentally pathological, aggressively dominant relationships.



'A danger to the nation's children'
by Frank Furedi 19 January 2004




Article19 January 2004Printer-friendly version


A danger to the nation's children

by Frank Furedi


If you want to get a story circulating in the media, all you have to do is get some numbers, call it research and put out a press release.

Political parties, charities, non-governmental organisations, lobby groups and other advocacy groups have perfected the strategy of promoting their cause through advocacy research. Advocacy research is the very opposite of scientific investigation. Sound science is devoted to the exploration of the unknown and the discovery of the truth. Advocacy organisations don't have to discover the truth - they already know it and their research is designed to affirm what they already know. 'Let's get some numbers to prove the cause' seems to be the motif of such research.

In contemporary times, advocacy research provides one of the principal instruments for gaining publicity for a cause. And publicity is what advocacy is all about. The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children is one of the most successful advocacy organisations in the UK. In recent decades the NSPCC has become a lobby group devoted to publicising its peculiar brand of anti-parent propaganda and promoting itself.

Its expensive Saatchi and Saatchi TV campaigns have succeeded in raising the organisation's visibility. With so much of its funds devoted to sophisticated propaganda campaigns, it is not surprising that providing real services for children no longer appears to be its main priority. Critics have pointed out that most of the NSPCC's budget goes on publicity and campaigns. It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the direct services that the NSPCC provides for children have become a mere adjunct for this publicity-hungry machine. Somehow, the NSPCC zealots have lost touch with the world of real children.

The NSPCC is shameless about its obsession with publicity. Its website proudly displays the logo 'PR Week Award 2003'. A press release published in December 2003 boasts that its 'hard-hitting' cartoon TV and poster campaign gained an award for being 'the best charity ad in the world'. These ads featured a child in the form of a cartoon character who is thrown from wall to wall by a real live father. Viewers see the 'child' having a cigarette stubbed out on his head, being punched and then thrown down the stairs. Another ad portrays images of distraught cartoon babies covering their ears in terror to keep out the noise of their father battering their mother next door. The NSPCC's publicity crusade relentlessly portrays a world where parents, particularly fathers, systematically brutalise their children.

In 2003, slick adverts made by Saatchi and Saatchi compared a baby's scream to a road drill and depicted a father slowly losing his temper to the point where he rushes towards his child. The message is crystal clear - fathers can't handle a toddler's tantrums without reacting violently.

You don't need a PhD in child psychology to know that children worry a lot

While the NSPCC is brilliant at self-promotion, its research verges on the banal. Today, it launches new 'research' in order to promote its 'Someone To Turn To' campaign. Ostensibly, the aim of this campaign is to get children to talk to people about their anxieties. However, its real objective is to target children and to get them to communicate their family problems and parental misdeeds to disinterested lobby groups like the NSPCC.

Why should this be necessary? Because the NSPCC research 'shows' that children are anxious about their life and also worry a lot. If you read the NSPCC' s advocacy research, you can discover that 34 per cent of 11- to 16-year-old children go so far as 'to say that they are always worrying about something'. And apparently, surprise, surprise, 82 per cent of 11- to 16-year-olds worry about exams and 42 per cent worry about not having a boyfriend or girlfriend.

You don't need a PhD in child psychology to come to the startling conclusion that most children have a lot of worries about growing up. Indeed, as most adult readers will recall, being anxious is a fairly normal aspect of childhood. There is nothing particularly novel about childhood insecurity; what is new is the attempt to turn it into a disease and a social problem. What is also new is the mendacious project of turning childhood anxiety into a justification for the predatory activity of a publicity-hungry media machine.

Even worse is the message transmitted by this campaign - that the NSPCC understands children far better than their mums and dads do. Aside from promoting itself, the campaign seeks to popularise the idea that families need the NSPCC to coordinate their children's communication with the world of adults.

In recent years, the NSPCC has used advocacy research continually to raise the stakes in its propaganda campaign. At first the NSPCC sought to scare the public through inflating the risk of stranger-danger; in recent years it has focused its publicity machine against 'parent-danger'; now its addresses its propaganda directly to children.

The current initiative is the latest phase of a three-year-old publicity drive. In May 2000, the NSPCC launched its expensive Full Stop campaign. Shocking pictures on billboards showed a loving mother playing with her baby. The caption read: 'Later she wanted to hold a pillow over his face.' Another picture showed a loving father cuddling his baby, with the words 'that night he felt like slamming her against the cot' serving as a chilling reminder not to be deceived by appearances.

The NSPCC distracts youngsters from communicating problems to family or friends

The NSPCC justified these scaremongering tactics on the grounds that it was telling parents that it is normal to snap under pressure, and that they need to learn to handle the strain. But this alleged link between parental incompetence and abusive behaviour has disturbing implications for every father and mother. If anyone can snap and smash the head of their baby against the wall, who can you trust?

Of course, it is easy for a parent to lose control and lash out at their youngster. Regrettably most of us have done it on more than one occasion. But when we snap we don't go on to smash our baby's head against the wall. It may be normal for parents to snap under pressure, but it is wrong for the NSPCC to suggest that this temporary loss of control 'normally' leads to abuse. The implication that parenting under pressure is an invitation to abuse is an insult to the integrity of millions of hardworking mums and dads. It also helps to create a poisonous atmosphere of suspicion and mistrust.

In contrast to the graphic and scary depiction of parental behaviour in previous NSPCC initiatives, today's 'Someone To Turn To' campaign appears unobjectionable. After all, it can be argued, what's wrong with getting children to talk about their anxieties and problems?

The problem with targeting children in this way is that it distracts youngsters from working out ways of communicating problems to family members and friends. It encourages the belief that problems are something you take to a professional or disclose to an NSPCC helpline rather than share with people you know. For children, communicating problems is difficult at the best of times; displacing parents with the NSPCC will only make it more difficult to develop an intergenerational dialogue. Its effect will be to disconnect children from their parents.

Isn't there something distasteful about a slick high-profile Saatchi and Saatchi TV campaign aimed at children? Most parents would not let a stranger come into their house in order to influence directly the behaviour of their kids. That is why many adults feel revolted when TV advertisements prey on their young audience and attempt to incite children to hassle their parents to buy their products; by influencing children's behaviour, such ads directly compromise parental authority. In this sense, the new NSPCC advertising campaign is no different to the tactics adopted by many commercials that haunt children's programming.

But there is a big difference between encouraging kids to hassle their parents to buy a bar of chocolate, and inciting children to look for solutions to their personal problems outside of the home. Such campaigns will further complicate relations between parents and their offspring and undermine the potential for family dialogue. Personally, I would far rather that kids hassled their parent to buy the latest electronic gadget, than listened to adverts that will make them feel that their normal childhood anxieties requires the attention of yet another professional.

Frank Furedi is professor of sociology at the University of Kent. His books include Therapy Culture: Cultivating Vulnerability in an Uncertain Age, Routledge, 2003 (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)); and Culture of Fear: Risk Taking and the Morality of Low Expectation, Continuum International Publishing Group, 2002 (buy this book from Amazon (UK) or Amazon (USA)).




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