Young, working-class girls (and boys) have been sexually abused throughout history, and recent voyeuristic headlines about child grooming in the UK only repeat those from an earlier age. The Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885 (‘An Act to make further provision for the Protection of Women and Girls, the suppression of brothels, and other purposes’), raised the age of consent from thirteen to sixteen, making sex with a girl between thirteen and sixteen a misdemeanor, and with a girl under thirteen a felony. The jury had to acquit the person charged if he had reasonable cause to believe the girl was over sixteen. Prosecution had to be within three months of the offence.
This legislation replaced the Offences against the Person Act of 1861, section 51 of which stated: ‘Whosoever shall unlawfully and carnally know and abuse any girl being above the age of ten years and under the age of twelve years shall be guilty of a misdemeanor, and being convicted thereof shall be liable, at the discretion of the Court, to be kept in penal servitude for the term of three years, or to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years, with or without hard labour. The Act made it a felony to have sex with a girl under the age of 10, treating it the same as rape, which carried a wide range of punishment – servitude for life or for not less than three years.
Examples of actual sentences include those of Patrick Sarsfield, aged 22, who was sentenced to two years hard labour for ‘indecently assaulting’ Ellen Crook, aged under 10 (The Times, 2 March 1858). The Times (February 18, 1858), reported George James, aged 20, being sentenced to two years imprisonment for the ‘indecent assault'(rape) of Elizabeth Jane Brown, aged 2, the sister of his cohabitee.
Most cases of child sexual abuse were initiated by philanthropic societies, such as the Associated Societies for the Protection of Women and Children (ASPWC), who would pay for the cost of prosecution (working class victims could not), out of the funds they raised, and also represented victims in court. Such societies employed district officers and collectors, and had evolved from an evangelic era of ‘saving the souls’ of young prostitutes. Their members included Victorian ‘celebrities’ involved in moral campaigns, and thousands of women, mostly of the middle-class.
Their remit included incest, consensual or not, with the 1878 Minute Book of the ASPWC recording 50 cases in that year involving girls under 13, some being so young they were not able to give evidence. Of those convictions that were successful, sentences ranged from from two months to two years, this labour not being primarily a punishment, but a means of subsidising prison costs. The ASPWC Minute Books recorded the frequency of rape against working-class girls aged between 8 and 10. Sentences typically ranged from 9 months to 10 years, with the occasional life sentence being imposed. In many cases, the ASPWC mediated between (the often wealthy) abuser and his impoverished victim, and negotiated a sum of money to be paid in return for the case being dismissed.
In America, the historian Lynn Sacco found more than 500 published newspaper reports of father-daughter incest between 1817 and 1899. An iceberg’s tip, undoubtedly.
Societies such as the ASPWC also served the needs of the Establishment by not taking up cases involving figures of celebrity and authority, such as that of an Earl being fined £5 for the sexual assault of his 14 year old maidservant, as reported in The Pall Mall Gazette (March 4, 1865). Cases were also unlikely to be taken up if they involved army or navy officers, clergy, members of the legal profession, police officers, politicians, or teachers. Nothing changes.
Section S.3 of the 1885 Act stated: ‘Any person who by threats or intimidation procures or attempts to procure any woman or girl to have any unlawful carnal connection (or) by false pretences or false representations procure any woman or girl, not being a common prostitute or of known immoral character, to have any unlawful carnal connection … shall be guilty of an offence, and being convicted thereof shall be liable at the discretion of the Court to be imprisoned for any term not exceeding two years. Section S.2 stated: ‘that no person shall be convicted of any offence under this section upon the evidence of one witness, unless such witness be corroborated in some material particular by evidence implicating the accused’.
It can be seen that those known to be ‘a common prostitute or of known immoral character’ (not defined) were not protected by the 1885 Act. That is, young, working-class girls were not protected. They worked from very young ages in factories and, being judged ‘wordly’, were regarded as sexually promiscuous by the middle and upper-class males who procured them. One MP, who opposed the 1885 Act, claimed that middle and upper-class boys should not be prosecuted for ‘sowing their wild oats’ with sexually precocious, working-class serving maids, shop girls, and barmaids.
In America, those who opposed raising the age of consent to 16 made similar assumptions of promiscuity about African-American, Mexican, and Italian girls. (Hot climates ‘ripen’ girls quicker).
Such views persisted. In the 1920s, there was a refusal of some MPs ‘to acknowledge harm done through sexual exploitation of young women and an absolute unwillingness to acknowledge a power difference between young working-class girls and older middle-class men … These politicians did not see 13 or 14-year old working-class girls as children. Such views must in part explain the low percentage of cases that resulted in conviction’ (Carol Smart, ‘Reconsidering the Recent History of Child Sexual Abuse, 1910–1960’, Journal of Social Policy, 29.1, 2000).
Both Jimmy Saville and Cyril Smith, high-profile sexual abusers of children, were born in the 1920’s, and would have been influenced by such views. They followed a well-trodden path, and viewed their child victims as ‘fair game’, and the prospect of conviction as slim.
Simon Danczuk (www.dailymail.uk, April 13, 2014), articulated this fact: ‘In a letter to Lancashire Police in 1970, DPP Sir Norman Skelhorn said he did not consider there to be a reasonable prospect of a conviction. Referring to the statements by Cyril’s victims, he said: ‘The characters of some of these young men would be likely to render their evidence suspect. It may as well have said that as long as a high-profile politician decides to abuse boys of lowly social status, then there is zero chance of him being prosecuted. It more or less outlined a code of conduct for abusers. Stick to vulnerable people from broken homes and the law will give you a wide berth’. Nothing changes.
Victorian culture was permeated with sexual relationships between young girls and older men, an Archbishop of Canterbury becoming engaged to his cousin when she was twelve. Suitors assumed a fatherly role and ‘groomed’ their ‘prospect’, often with ‘false representations’. Victorian literature amply portrayed such relationships.
Young, working- class girls had their innocence tested rather than assumed in court, and girls, however young, were painstakingly questioned about their sexual awareness and experience, damning evidence often resulting in a lesser, discretionary sentence.
Thus, the likelihood of conviction was a contest between the assumed reputation and social status of the defendant, and the (often alleged) sexual knowledge and experience of the girl. A young girl had to demonstrate her innocence to the court by using vague, innocent language to describe her sexual abuse. She had to be Snow White.
In June 1879, the Chairman of the ASPWC examined Rose McGrath, aged 6, to see if she was capable of giving evidence in court against her father, who had ‘indecently assaulted’ her, and her two younger sisters, aged 4 and 3. The Minute Books record that ‘she gave the story of the most disgusting case with much clearness and simplicity of statement’, prompting the ASPWC to agree to sponsor the case.
The ‘family man’ of middle or high rank was not usually convicted, and definitely not if it was his word against that of a young, working-class girl. Only a tiny fraction of cases reached the courts, and probably less than a third of all cases resulted in a conviction, as indicated by Louise A. Jackson (Child Sexual Abuse in Victorian England, 2000). Of those cases that did enter the judicial process, there were many recorded at Assize level which were quickly dismissed, and which did not reach the public gaze.
The same author investigated a myth of (British values) Victorian Britain – that parents protected their children and did not abuse them. The poor, working-class father, as breadwinner, was beyond reproach, whether engaging in incest or selling his daughters to a brothel or a rich ‘client’. (See A. S. Wohl, ed., ‘Sex and the Single Room: Incest among the Victorian Working Classes’, 1978).
On the same theme, Helen Gavin (The Social Construction of the Child Sex Offender Explored by Narrative, 2005), commented: ‘Children were institutionalised following admittance of sexual abuse (against them) for moral care and re-education. Such notions made it inconceivable to imagine that child sexual abuse occurred regularly in ‘good’ and ‘normal’ Victorian families where, as today, the family is considered as a private patriarchal domain in which force and aggression might well hold sway’.
The prostitution of working-class girls by gangs of ‘disreputable Jews’ was reported by Henry Mayhew in 1845. A Select Committee investigating this claim found it to be false, but they did find: ‘beyond doubt that juvenile prostitution, from an almost incredibly early age, is increasing to an appalling extent in England, and especially London’. A report by The Children’s Society, One Way Street (1999) reported that of 60 women working in prostitution, half had become prostitutes before the age of 14. Nothing changes.
The problem of the sexual abuse of young, working-class girls is not one confined to gangs of Pakistani men, with such cases wetting the voyeuristic and racist appetites of readers of the tabloid press. Perpetrators of child sex abuse include white working-class and middle-class men, judges, clergy, politicians, and all manner of media-created celebrities, who have sex with 12-14 year old working-class prostitutes, who mostly come from a background of poverty and abuse within their family.
As with the 1885 Act, those known to be ‘a common prostitute or of known immoral character’ are not protected. The police and social services cartel ignore them, their abuse being accredited to a ‘lifestyle choice’.
The Inspector of Constabulary has reported (November 18, 2014), that 25% of sex crimes, including the rape and sexual abuse of young children, were unreported, often because victims were not believed by police officers. Nothing Changes.
This is a blatant attempt by some police forces to falsify crime figures. (Is this not a crime?). Peter Barron, a former detective chief superintendent in the Metropolitan police, told a Commons select Committee that those who whistleblow about falsification of figures are victimised: “By and large they are marginalised; if they apply for promotion they are not selected. They are judged to be not a team player”.
A police constable told the same committee that his experience suggested that 70% of rape allegations that were not investigated were wrongly dismissed. When asked by the Committee chairman: “This would finish up with trying to persuade a victim that they weren’t raped, for example?” he replied: “Effectively, yes”.
A spokesperson for Rape Crisis England & Wales commented: “We are aware how incredibly difficult it can be to make a report to the police, and how disheartening it can be if those reports are met with disbelief or discouragement”. The spokesperson added that “only 15% of the 85,000 women who are raped and over 400,000 who are sexually assaulted in England and Wales every year currently even report to the police”. Nothing changes.
Does any of this surprise? Such as the British Brainwashing Corporation (BBC), regularly repeat crime figures furnished by the government as if they are facts, not subjecting them to any questioning. It is like listening to broadcasts from North Korea, and it is surely just a matter of time before some inanely-grinning presenter declares: “The government is pleased to announce that there was no crime this year”. Such propaganda may be relatively harmless when concerning economic or foreign policy, but when it is used to conceal the extent of sexual abuse it is damnable.
As the charade unfolds regarding the falsification of crime figures, including the rape and sexual abuse of young children, the Commons Local Government Committee has instructed English councils to review their child protection systems after hearing ‘alarming evidence that organised child sex abuse is widespread’. Well, what a surprise! The massed ranks of the Womens’ Institute can be imagined to say, “Surely, not in England’s green an pleasant land”.
Attitudes surrounding the sexual abuse of young children have not changed since Victorian times. The Establishment continues to protect figures of celebrity and authority. An aricle entitled ‘Politicians spinning major cover-up of pedophile cases in UK’ (canadianliberty.com, July 6, 2014), quoted ‘a current politician’ saying: “the new, more politically correct culture of a totalitarian surveillance society has not improved with respect to abuse by those in power, as every abuse is covered up and smothered by propaganda”.
The Establishment’s efforts to uncover sexual abuse committed by MP’s is as derisory as the £5 fine imposed on a Victorian Earl for the ‘sexual assault’ of his 14 year old maidservant. The same Establishment now permits the prosecution of working-class, celebrity offenders, but this is merely a smokescreen to hide their own abuses.
The sexual abuse of young working-class children is rife, within the home (where most abuse occurs), orphanages, and schools; and on dimly-lit streets, where police cars speed by young children selling sex to men.
The sexual abuse of working-class children has always been rife, but too many are waiting for the BBC to announce that it does not exist.
lenin nightingale 2014