The growing, shocking truth about the extent of child abuse in the world is like the discovery of a colony of plague-carrying rats living in your home – a reality you do not want to see but that you know you must confront.
Child sex abuse goes on everywhere in the world, and in in the UK, as over 600 otherwise respectable men are arrested including doctors, teachers and carers, experts are warning, cautiously, that as many as 1 child in 4 may be abused in or out of their homes. I fear the desecration of childhood may be more endemic even than that, as we are warned this is the most difficult, dangerous crisis we as a society have to deal with. For every person involved actively in child sex abuse there may be another 10 who seek out and download sexual images of children “only”, but whose addiction will develop until they must touch rather than just look. It is a modern-day, growing plague, found in all levels of society.
Child abuse is the most ugly side of sex, and it epitomises how far sexual union has become debased in so many ways. Once, sex between 2 people was the highest expression of love, so sublime it transcended worldly physicality and became other-dimensional, a blissful, spiritual one-ness when bodies and souls merged – no lust, only love, and sometimes creativity. Now, the pinnacle of sexual experience has become its nadir, and sex is everywhere, explicit, indiscriminate, commonplace and the basis of crude humour. So, the idea and actuality of sex is forced upon children by their environment from the time they become aware, and it is sad but unsurprising that some boys as young as 7 attempt to rape babies as they emulate what they see around them, and see as normal.
The abuse of children and the abuse of sex is deep-rooted now, and it will be difficult to change this prevailing culture of distorted sexual acceptance. We have reached the stage where, for some people, it is hard to distinguish between right and wrong as they put personal gratification – sexual or acquisitive – before compassion and altruism.
The truth about child sex abuse is ugly, highlighting as it does how far we have lost our way and forgotten what it means to be human. All of us, perpetrators or not, have a responsibility in this situation, whether it is in teaching our children by example and safe-guarding; choosing our words, language, viewing and reading with care; conducting relationships with integrity and even, perhaps, attempting to honour the spiritual meaning of sexual union.
And, so importantly, we need to honour the children too, for then they will learn to honour themselves, and themselves to honour others.