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Source: (consider it) Thread: Societal attitudes to sexual abuse of children in the past
Fr Weber
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quote:
Originally posted by Evensong:
For those of you that were around (and adults) in the 1940's - 1980's, I'd very much like to hear what your impressions of societal attitudes towards child sexual abuse were back then in the workplace and in the home.

Was there a culture of turning a blind eye? Was there a culture of not mentioning it or doing anything about it even if you knew it was happening in the home or the school or wherever? Was it distasteful but you just got on with normal life?

Have attitudes in the past changed from the attitudes of society today?

If so, why?

They've changed incredibly, in my experience. Through junior high & high school (mid 70s-early 80s), I lived in a small Midwestern town with a population of just under 2000, in a primarily rural county. In our area, there were 3 or 4 men known to be interested in young boys, and though it wasn't much discussed there was a general sense that one stayed away from those men.

One of them was my high school choir director's husband, a president of a local bank who was also an organist at a local church. He would come and assist at rehearsals for concerts & musicals at times, and at one rehearsal he engaged me in what in retrospect was a completely inappropriate conversation (asking whether I masturbated and so on), culminating with asking me if I wanted to assist him in church as a page-turner--"If I promise not to feel you up," he said laughing. I made some excuse as to why I couldn't, and avoided him as best I could thereafter.

Nothing was done about any of these guys for a long time. Recently I became curious as to whether anyone had ever reported their misdeeds, and was somewhat gratified to find that one of them is now listed as a registered sex offender for fiddling with teenage boys.

Looking back at all that, I'm really amazed that everybody knew about the state of things and nobody did anything about it. I can't imagine it being allowed to continue these days. And in such a small town, 4 molesters out of 2000 inhabitants seems like a lot!

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"The Eucharist is not a play, and you're not Jesus."

--Sr Theresa Koernke, IHM

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Fr Weber
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Apologies for the multiple post; apparently some network issue caused this. Host(s), please delete the duplicates.

[Done - DT, Purgatory Host]

[ 19. November 2012, 19:53: Message edited by: Doublethink ]

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"The Eucharist is not a play, and you're not Jesus."

--Sr Theresa Koernke, IHM

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ken
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quote:
Originally posted by Solly:
It was another world, really: teachers threw chalk, clipped ears, whacked without fear...

That's certainly true. A number of the teachers in the secondary school I went to were notorious for throwing things at boys or hitting with rulers and so on. And the cane was used, though rarely and as a last resort. As far as I remember those punishments ended almost entirely when we became co-educational and girls arrived in the school, which would have been in about 1973 The teachers didn't feel they could hit girls, and didn't want to treat girls and boys differently. (For what its worth the whole place cleaned up its act - the boys also became less violent and behaved less crudely - the wexperience of being in a school that changed has helped to give me a strong hatred of single-sex education)

Some schools would hit girls though. The head of the primary school I went to in the 1960s used to use the cane often, on both boys and girls. Even then beating 7-year-old girls with sticks was regarded as odd, though not illegal.

As others said limited corporal punishment in schools, or by parents, wasn't regarded as abuse. We can;t assume that because most people thought that punishment liek that was normal, they would also have thought that life-threatening violence against children or sexual activity with children was normal. They didn't.

Opposition to corporal punishment was building in the 1960s and 1970s. Which has to be evidence that it wasn't universally accepted in those days, even if it had been a generation or two earlier. There were political campaigns against it in the 1960s, and the first LEAs banned it in the late 70s, and it was made illegal in the 1980s - by a Tory-dominated Parliament. Margaret Thatcher was Prime Minister.

Attitudes to thing like bringing up children don't change overnight. A majority of MPs were against it in the late 1980s and MPs mostly socially conservatiuve men aged between about 50 and 70. So the practice must have been going out of favour for a long while. In the 1960s there were large majorities in favour of corporal punishment, in the 1970s it was close. So at a wild guess, if the attitudes of MPs were at all representative of people around them, maybe the age cohorts born after about the mid-1930s were mainly against corporal punishment, and those born in the 1910s or earlier mainly for. So if there was a time when attitudes changed, it was perhaps between th the 1940s and 1960s - but the laws were changed later when that age group got to be running things.

But corporal punishment - or general mild violence from teachers - is differrent from what would have been thought of as child abuse in those days. And serious violence against children, or sexual violence, or violence against very young children, or sex with children, was regarded with horror then, and wasn't thought of as at all normal.

As I said before there were some notorious cases in the area I lived in that became national news. When I was 10 in 1967 a 12-year old boy was murdered walking on a path near our school - I didn't know him, he was a year or two above me at school, at the time I would have been just about to go into the 4th year juniors and he woudl have been just starting at secondary scool (also I think the one I went to later). I just googled hois name to remind myself of when it happenbed - I hadn't realised, or had forgotten, that the knife that was used to kill him had been found right outside our school and the murderer or murderers had apparently broken in to the school to wash in the toilets there. A new article from 2006 says that two men were arrested for the murder after 39 years.

A few years later when I would have been about 15 a young girl called Maria Colwell from the next council estate down the hill from that school was killed by her stepfather. - the case was notorious, you can easily find reports of it online (but I'd not recommend reading them, what happened was terrible)

My Mum taught for a while in a school in yet another council estate in East Brighton, the one my Dad had been brought up in. (Though not the school he went to because he went to the Catholic school). While seh was at that scool there were a number of instances of children at that school, or thir younger brothers or sisters, being violently abused in their families, and I think a few of sexual abuse. These would not have been reported in the same way of course because the victims were still alive.

But people in general did not overlook such things. They did nto ignore them, did not treat them as normal or to be expected, they were horrified. Really.

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Ken

L’amor che move il sole e l’altre stelle.

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The Undiscovered Country
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quote:
Originally posted by ken:
quote:
Originally posted by Evensong:
For those of you that were around (and adults) in the 1940's - 1980's, I'd very much like to hear what your impressions of societal attitudes towards child sexual abuse were back then in the workplace and in the home.

Was there a culture of turning a blind eye? Was there a culture of not mentioning it or doing anything about it even if you knew it was happening in the home or the school or wherever? Was it distasteful but you just got on with normal life?

Have attitudes in the past changed from the attitudes of society today?

As far as I remember I never heard or thought about it or knew such a thing existed until I was about 11 years old, in the late 1960s. Over the next few years there were a number of notorious cases in the area I lived in that got into the national news. So my general impression was that it was very rare, and that everybody thought of it as one of the worst crimes there was, in the same general category of seriousness as rape and murder.

I am genuinely surprised, even slightly shocked, at other people here saying that child abuse was generally accepted in the 1970s and 80s. It really wasn't.

I agree. Children in the 1960s and 1970s were brought up with a constant reinforcement of 'don't talk to strangers'. What society generally did have was a better sense of keeping that risk in perspective with an unspoken greater recognition that stranger-related incidents were (and continue to be) very rare indeed.

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The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man adapts the world to himself. Therefore all hope of progress rests with the unreasonable man.

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Alogon
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quote:
Originally posted by Evensong:
For those of you that were around (and adults) in the 1940's - 1980's, I'd very much like to hear what your impressions of societal attitudes towards child sexual abuse were back then in the workplace and in the home.

Orwell's 1984 was not published until 1949; and when I studied it as an adolescent in the mid 1960s, the techniques of Newspeak were still contemplated with universal horror. The deliberate manipulation of language in order to short-circuit the human mind was something done by Communists and despised by free people. It took a few more years for "Orwellian language" to be attempted by our own authorities.

The now-unconscious use of the term "child sexual abuse" has created our first thought-crime. What a success story its promotion has been. Of course attitudes were different before it was invented.

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Patriarchy (n.): A belief in original sin unaccompanied by a belief in God.

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Bullfrog.

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One small story. When I was younger, I remember reading a book on parenting on my dad's shelf that was published in the 1950s. Several things struck me. I recall that the author, who grew up in a crowded tenement, disapproved of cribs and isolated bedrooms for little ones. Another thing I remember vividly was how he thought that the disapproval of corporal punishment was excessive, that when he grew up (and this is close to a quote) "If your father didn't beat you when he got home from work, you'd think he didn't love you."

And this was written in the 1950s by someone who I think must've grown up in the early 20th century. [Eek!]

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Some say that man is the root of all evil
Others say God's a drunkard for pain
Me, I believe that the Garden of Eden
Was burned to make way for a train. --Josh Ritter, Harrisburg

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cliffdweller
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quote:
Originally posted by Alogon:
quote:
Originally posted by Evensong:
For those of you that were around (and adults) in the 1940's - 1980's, I'd very much like to hear what your impressions of societal attitudes towards child sexual abuse were back then in the workplace and in the home.

Orwell's 1984 was not published until 1949; and when I studied it as an adolescent in the mid 1960s, the techniques of Newspeak were still contemplated with universal horror. The deliberate manipulation of language in order to short-circuit the human mind was something done by Communists and despised by free people. It took a few more years for "Orwellian language" to be attempted by our own authorities.

The now-unconscious use of the term "child sexual abuse" has created our first thought-crime. What a success story its promotion has been. Of course attitudes were different before it was invented.

I would agree that changes in terminology can signal-- or reflect-- changes in emotive response. That's not always bad. The shift from "alternate lifestyle" or "gay agenda" to "marriage equality" has, for example, correctly reframed what is, at least on the State level, a civil rights issue.

In this case, adopting a more shocking term reflects appropriately IMHO the seriousness of the crime-- signaling a more appropriate response than in earlier eras where calling it "badly using children" or whatever signaled a "shove the problem out of the way" response.

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"Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don't be afraid." -Frederick Buechner

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Alogon
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quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:
In this case, adopting a more shocking term reflects appropriately IMHO the seriousness of the crime-- signaling a more appropriate response than in earlier eras where calling it "badly using children" or whatever signaled a "shove the problem out of the way" response.

The most objective description is sexual experience (of whatever kind) between one over a certain age and one under a certain age-- ages defined by the law in whatever jurisdiction. If it is observed a posteriori (no pun intended) inherently and invariably to be as serious as the coiners of the term want us to find it, then why the need to shut down discussion by declaring it so a priori? That is what it amounts to. In most circumstances we find such a tactic (be it a euphemism or its opposite) suspicious, especially if it's a good career move.

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Patriarchy (n.): A belief in original sin unaccompanied by a belief in God.

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:

In this case, adopting a more shocking term reflects appropriately IMHO the seriousness of the crime-- signaling a more appropriate response than in earlier eras where calling it "badly using children" or whatever signaled a "shove the problem out of the way" response.

I think the language is more accurate, not more shocking. It is abuse of children, and the abuse is sexual. So far as both punishment, recidivism and rehabilitation are concerned it covers a spectrum of behaviour, with varying levels of harmful effects on its victims.

I'm quite clear that the society in which I grew up both detested any form of sexual abuse of children and under-estimated its damaging effects. In particular, it's clear to me now that pathological sexual abuse, including grooming and manipulating, and inducing secrecy, was not really understood at all. Particularly if it was "all in the family".

[ 19. November 2012, 23:29: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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Curiosity killed ...

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Corporal punishment was debated throughout the 70s. IIRC birching was on the statute book in the Isle of Man and that was a public discussion at the time.

The school I attended for sixth form (late 70s/early 80s) was unusual in that the headmaster* was a member of STOP, a campaign to stop corporal punishment in school. It wasn't the best school to pioneer this - it was an upper school in a town with an army camp and those children were still seeing a lot of corporal punishment.

In certain areas corporal punishment, to the point that would now be seen as physical abuse, continued much later than ken's post would suggest.

* said headmaster was later arrested and charged for certain actions in the men's toilets in a bigger local conurbation.

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Mugs - Keep the Ship afloat

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by Alogon:
quote:
Originally posted by cliffdweller:
In this case, adopting a more shocking term reflects appropriately IMHO the seriousness of the crime-- signaling a more appropriate response than in earlier eras where calling it "badly using children" or whatever signaled a "shove the problem out of the way" response.

The most objective description is sexual experience (of whatever kind) between one over a certain age and one under a certain age-- ages defined by the law in whatever jurisdiction. If it is observed a posteriori (no pun intended) inherently and invariably to be as serious as the coiners of the term want us to find it, then why the need to shut down discussion by declaring it so a priori? That is what it amounts to. In most circumstances we find such a tactic (be it a euphemism or its opposite) suspicious, especially if it's a good career move.
Given that this thread is still current, I think it might be better if wider discussions over current attitudes, nomenclature etc, continued there. So please consider that approach and feel free to copy over any parts of the discussion from here if you feel that is appropriate.

(I'm pointing this finger at me as well)

Barnabas62
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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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Moo

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I think my generation's experience with stranger-danger warnings may have been unique. I was born around the time that the Lindbergh baby was kidnapped and murdered.

All the warnings we got about strangers were related to kidnapping; no other danger was mentioned. I assume the adults told us this because we already knew about the kidnapping, and so they did not have to introduce the idea of new dangers to us. I'm glad it worked out that way.

There were several people in my neighborhood who were to be avoided because they were verbally abusive, but I'm fairly certain that those people were not sexual predators. I don't know how much sexual abuse there actually was.

Moo

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North East Quine

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Back in the 70s I knew a playground ditty in two parts, about a dirty old man trying to lure a girl into the woods, ending with "I'll tell the vicar!" "I am the vicar!" I've just googled the bits I can remember and found this which is along the same lines, and apparently dates from the 1950s. Anyone else remember this?

We thought it was funny at the time.

[ 22. November 2012, 19:35: Message edited by: North East Quine ]

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Stercus Tauri
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I must have had a very sheltered childhood. In fact, I know I did. I still remember reading the word 'paedophilia" for the first time and asking what it meant. "Liking children", I was told. What on earth could be wrong with that?

Fast forward numerous decades to a clergyman in Canada who was deposed not very long ago, after his history of molesting boys was made public. Part of his defence was that standards have changed... He didn't get a lot of sympathy for that, yet I suspected he really meant it. He had persuaded himself that it was harmless .

On the other topic on this thread, the classroom brutality by teachers - physical and psychological abuse - is a memory that refuses to fade. Being slow to answer a question, or worse, not understanding the question, was at least as severe an offence as mischief in the classroom.

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Thay haif said. Quhat say thay, Lat thame say (George Keith, 5th Earl Marischal)

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Eigon
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North East Quine - I remember that rhyme, too - and there was a skipping rhyme which included the lines:
"Ooh, aah, I lost my bra - I lost it in the vicar's car"
That was sung back in the 1960s.

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Laugh hard. Run fast. Be kind.

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Barnabas62
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[Hot and Hormonal]

I reckon this might be inappropriate, but the additional lines I remember to North East Quine's link are not without significance.

a. I'll scream, I'll scream.

b. How loud can you scream?

a. (Muffled) Ah. Ah

b. To the woods, to the woods!

We used to laugh too. It really doesn't look at all funny any more.

[Hot and Hormonal]

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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Doublethink.
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I found John Lloyd's memories of boarding school scarily astounding, in terms of the total lack of recognition of abuse and neglect.

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All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome. George Orwell

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Gramps49
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In a way, one form of sexual abuse for the females was, if they got pregnant they were not allowed to finish school. I remember one very bright girl that sat beside me in my 11th year. We used to joke with each other. Then one day she did not come to class, and it seemed she dropped off the face of the earth. About a month later I heard she was pregnant. I often wonder what happened to her.
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