Adults are failing to take child abuse seriously because of the increasing sexualisation of young girls, a former High Court judge has warned.
Graeme Paton, Telegraph
Overexposure to inappropriate images is blunting attitudes towards sex attacks on under-16s, said Baroness Butler-Sloss, who chaired the Cleveland Child Abuse Inquiry.
She suggested there was a danger that under-age girls were no longer being seen as victims because of perceptions over the way some children act and dress.
Speaking amid a continuing fall out over the Jimmy Savile scandal, the judge also hit out at the “old fashioned” attitude towards sexual abuse victims in some local authorities and police forces.
The controversy should act as a “wake-up call” in the way society deals with child protection issues, she said.
The comments come amid growing concerns over the sexualisation of children.
Ministers have pledged to protect young people from advertising, marketing and media content that exposes them to inappropriate images or commercial pressures.
It follows a high-profile report from Reg Bailey of the Mothers’ Union who called for action to shield children from the “increasingly sexualised wallpaper surrounding them”.
Baroness Butler-Sloss, former president of the Family Court division of the High Court, was asked on Radio 4’s Today programme whether sexualised images caused child abuse.
She said it was not a driver of the original problem, insisting it was often “innate” in the perpetrators of sex attacks on under-16s.
But she added: “I think it encourages people not to take it seriously”.
The peer said that some adults “didn’t think that these girls were victims” and insisted there was a “complete misunderstanding of… the fact that the law is there to protect children and you don’t start treating children under 16 as bad girls”.
“You start saying how can these children be protected from this sort of behaviour? It is the men who are to blame, not the girls,” she said.
Baroness Butler-Sloss also said the scandal was a “wake up call” to society, adding that “some police officers in some forces” had an “old fashioned” view of sexual abuse victims.
”What worries me about Jimmy Savile and the appalling story is everybody will be terribly upset for a while and then it will die down,” she said.
”There have been a whole lot of scandals … the story comes up again and again. You get it in all kinds of places.
“The Jimmy Savile case is a wake up call and I think that is a good thing.”
Speaking yesterday, Peter Davies, chief executive of the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre, insisted reforms were rapidly improving the system.
He said: ”I am optimistic we have already learned significant lessons and we have moved on and we are going to move significantly this year – not just based on the Savile case, of course, but what we are currently learning about group and gang-related child sexual exploitation.
”It is implicit in the fact we are learning and improving there is something to be improved upon.”
Authorities believe that Savile was one of the country’s most prolific child sex offenders.
Operation Yewtree was launched in the wake of hundreds of allegations made against Savile following a television documentary featuring some of his victims.
Police have said a total of 31 allegations of rape have been made so far.
Some 589 people have come forward with information relating to the scandal, with a total of 450 complaints against the BBC presenter and DJ himself, mainly alleging sexual abuse.
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