"sexual abuse" stories. The claims about sexual abuse have now reached epidemic proportions.
Sexual abuse is vile. It is the ultimate act of betrayal of innocence. It is not to be condoned in any way, shape or form.
But - and yes there is a "but" - allegations of sexual abuse are also being used to harm others. The allegations against the late British Prime Minister Edward Heath are the latest in a string of allegations against high profile figures. In this instance the man is long dead and cannot defend himself. So far none of the allegations have been proven. One person who was said to have made the allegations denies doing so. Another is apparently making claims that have proven to be false. There is the question of how so many allegations could possibly be true of a man who was constantly being shadowed by a security detail. If they are true then there has been a cover up of unbelievably massive proportions over many years. He may have been as bad as he is being painted or he may be innocent. Whatever the outcome of inquiries, the reputation of a former Prime Minister has been forever tainted.
I think I have mentioned elsewhere in this blog that the Senior Cat knows a music teacher and fellow magician who was accused of sexual assault. The two girls who accused him did not retract their allegations until it reached the point where the police were about to charge him. Told he would probably go to gaol for a lengthy period they suddenly got frightened and admitted that there was no truth at all in the allegations. They had chosen that as a way to try and stop learning music at school after their parents had told them they could not give up lessons.
But the allegations damaged his reputation and his career. The rules mean that the black mark against him was always on his record. The reputation of a man who had done nothing wrong has been harmed for the rest of his life.
A few days ago I discovered that a similar thing had happened to a man I knew in this district. He lived with his dog. He had never married. He was not gay. He was just a quiet, rather shy man who spent his spare daylight hours in his lovely garden - or rather, he did. Some boys damaged some of his garden and threw stones and bottles at his dog. He, rightly, was angry and reported them to their parents further down the street. The boys retaliated by accusing him of sexual abuse. His life was living hell. Again it was not until he was on the point of being charged with serious sexual abuse that one of the boys became frightened and admitted that they had damaged his garden and made up the allegations to cover their tracks. He had been on leave (without pay) from his job and he had to pay thousands of dollars for legal assistance.
The police were not sympathetic. They took the attitude that he should not have reacted to the damage the boys did and that he had brought the situation on himself. Despite the retractions there were other consequences for him at work and in the community. People avoided him. His garden no longer gave him the same pleasure. His dog died from injuries it received at an unknown hand. The note left with it was vile.
At present he is in a psychiatric unit because he tried to commit suicide. He left a note protesting his innocence and saying people still did not believe him.
The boys were let off with a warning because of their age.
It is all too easy to make the most damaging allegations. Simply retracting them will not reverse the damage.
Making false allegations to harm someone also makes it much harder for those who have genuinely been abused too. The media needs to stop sensationalising the issue of sexual abuse. Reporting proven facts not "alleged" facts might be a start.