Newstalk broadcaster and rugby pundit George Hook hosted a slot on his radio show earlier today discussing how the wider public should talk about child sex abuse, following the remarks made by Eric Bristow on twitter. Former Darts World Champion Bristow was sacked by Sky Sports following his controversial remarks on twitter claiming that the victims of abuse should have "sorted out" their abusers, saying that, unlike darts players, footballers are "wimps".
Hook introduced the slot by saying that he had "a lot of sympathy for Eric Bristow", saying that Bristow is "hardly an intellectual giant". The thrust of Hook's point is that Bristow's comments should be seen in the context of his being part of an elder generation. Citing a newspaper article last week concerning a priest, Hook said that older generations were likely more sceptical about the veracity of public claims pertaining to an incident that happened decades previously.
This was Hook's question to Shane Dunphy, author and Child Protection expert:
What would be very difficult for people of me - and ok I'm a lot older than Eric Bristow - and people of my generation, is that when we read last week that a priest has been taken off his television programme and taken away from his ministry, on the basis of an allegation twenty-odd years ago. He is now done, whether guilty or innocent. He does not have the presumption of innocence.
In the case of child sex abuse, there is a presumption of guilt. Therefore, it makes it difficult for a certain generation of people, to ask 'well, how much of this is real, and how much of this is made up and how certain can we be about something that is twenty years old?' So that makes it very difficult to talk about.
On Bristow in particular, Dunphy said that "he [Bristow] has said something a lot of people say, but the problem is that he has said it in a public forum and it has been very hurtful to an awful lot of people".
Hook then put Bristow's idea that victims should have challenged their abusers later in life. This was his reply:
I've heard that so many times. This idea that 'you're an adult now, nobody can hurt you unless you allow them to, so stop wallowing in self-pity'. What we need to remember is - and this is the power that the abuser has - it freezes and preserves that hurt, frightened child that survivors once were. I've spoken to people who, when they have faced down their abusers, whether it be in court or via another medium, when they came face-to-face with their abusers, they felt themselves zooming back to being that frightened child.
Hook pointed out that there is often little protection for an accused abuser, citing the example of Cliff Richard, who was subject to intense media scrutiny when false allegations were made against him.
Dunphy said that this is true, but that he would prefer an adult to go through a period of discomfort during an investigation, once that, if found innocent, it was made extremely clear. Dunphy ended by saying it is "important to always place the needs of the child first".
You can listen to the full slot back on the Newstalk website.