Yesterday, former BBC DJ Chris Denning was given a prison sentence of 13 years for three decades of child sexual sexual abuse. Denning was convicted on 40 counts of sexual abuse against 24 boys, aged nine to 16.
This horrifying example reminds us that child sexual abuse crosses all geographic and socioeconomic boundaries. The court proceedings also show the pattern of abuse – how it happens and why prevention is so important.
- “The defendant used the allure first of the record industry and celebrity, and then the world of computer games to entice boys into his company.”
- “You gave them alcohol and drugs. To some of them you gave money. You showed them pornographic material…You introduced them to inappropriate sexual behaviour by making it seem normal and exciting.”
- “He’s enormously sorry for what he did to these boys then – men now – and that’s something he will have to live with.”
Grooming is a gradual process that begins with trust. Abusers gain the trust of victims and often their families, often by filling a needed spot in the family – playmate, caretaker, surrogate parent, etc. In this case, Denning used his social status and connections to lure his victims.
Abusers will use any means available to lower the inhibitions of their victims, both physically and mentally. They often treat children as if they are older, exposing them to sexual situations and gradually wearing down and crossing physical boundaries.
Abusers often say they are sorry after the fact. This does not help the victims who have had their trust and innocence shattered. Prevention must be a priority for communities across the globe.
This case exposed three decades of abuse – that’s 30 years. It is terrifying that throughout this time, there was not one educated adult able to step forward and say, “This is not okay.”
Signs are not always obvious, but they are always there. We owe it to our children to create societies that nurture and protect, not ones where abusers are able to move from child victim to child victim, leaving a path of destruction in their wake. Sorry doesn’t cut it. We must choose to protect our children.