The sexual abuse of children is simply the most heinous, appalling and disgraceful crime of our time. Yet I suspect this is nothing new in human history. There is ample evidence of it occurring during previous generations in western cultures, as well as being endemic in some traditional indigenous societies. Like a pebble thrown into a pond, its effects permeate our entire society from the horrendous impact on the victim, to family, friends, and successive generations.
Sadly a majority of crimes against children are perpetrated by family members or close friends.
I have wonderful memories of being a little boy spending time alone with real and honorary Uncles, "helping" them in the vegetable garden, being told stories, or just sitting on their knee riding the imaginary horse. I know my parents would not have even remotely considered the possibility that I could be abused in any way.
Very sadly it seems these times have gone forever.
Mr and Mrs GOF have had a couple of close friends for around 30 years. We have been there when each of their children was born and shared the joy of watching our own daughter grow up with their children.
Such was our friendship that one of the young children adopted me as her honorary "Dad" when her real one was absent working in a distant location for a year. That this child should have shown such trust in me remains to this day one of the most beautiful moments in my life. Yet I knew it was a situation to be handled with a great deal of care and restraint. Whilst my natural instinct was to give affection to this child as I would my own daughter, I felt it necessary to self-impose strict boundaries of behaviour.
Our friends are both highly intelligent and caring human beings, so I was always aware that, being responsible parents, they could never allow themselves to trust me completely. They would never have made me aware of any lack of trust ….. yet I knew that it was their responsibility to maintain an appropriate level of vigilance. Accordingly I felt the need to limit my displays of affection towards the children, avoiding hugs that were forthcoming, or being alone with any one of them. The children are now wonderful young adults and yet I still have a hesitation about giving them a hug whenever I see them. It has been a joy watching them grow and sharing the events of their lives. But for me there is also just a little tinge of sadness. Perhaps I have been a little over sensitive, but I still consider it was right to err on the side of caution.
In dealing with the children of the world, I must adhere to boundaries appropriate to a man who has been tainted with guilt-by-association with his own gender, and the disgraceful behaviour of some.