This is our truth, tell us yours
The investigation, and eventual ruling, into Palace Gate Counselling by the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy make sobering reading which ever chair you occupy in the therapy room. Not only that a man used his position to sexually abuse women whose trust he had gained, but the refusal by others involved to even consider how damaging his actions had been. We expect counsellors to be places of safety, in order to even practice they are supposed to be non judgemental and “prize” others, we do not expect them to engage in victim blaming and gaslighting.
The BACP is one of the two main regulatory bodies of therapists in the UK, and their ruling here is at least reassuring that such abuse will not be tolerated by them. Unfortunately currently in the UK that is all the ruling means. There is no requirement that you be a member, and no legal definition of what a counsellor is, or who can set up a counselling practice. Talbot and Clapham have only their consciences stopping them from opening a new therapy center tomorrow, allowing them to abuse and reabuse vulnerable people with impunity.
There is a private members bill going through Parliament that is attempting to remedy this situation, however it looks likely to fail as the government thinks self regulation is the solution, because that works so well in other sectors like the media and banking. Now regular readers may be surprised to see me writing calling for more laws, more regulations. “Arent you campaigning for the removal of laws and decriminlization?” They ask. This seems to be a common misunderstanding of what those of us who want to deregulation of sex work want.
If sex work were truly treated as just another job, not the stigmatizing model of legalization in Nevavda or Holland. Not the Swedish attempt to eradicate sex work via making it harder and more dangerous, but just a job, there will be regulation. There will need to be, all work is regulated in a decent country, to protect the workers. WHy is this? As Carter made clear in his powerful post yesterday, the blood of his mining ancestors running through it, regulation of work exists because it was decided unfettered capitalism and treating people as human beings with dignity and rights cannot be reconciled. Legislation was resisted, mill owners claimed they would close down if they did not have the nimble fingers of children to keep the looms moving. Mine owners said the economy would crumble if they were forced to consider the health and safety of the workers. Slowly, far too slowly given the death toll laws were introduced and the safety of individuals in the workplace was considered something governments regulated.
During the twentieth century a consensus was reached that workers need to be protected from those who would exploit them. There was a recognition of the power imbalances inherent in capitalism, that under our system workers are vulnerable and one of the roles of the state is to recognize that vulnerability. Currently that wise recognition is under attack, and parties like UKIP and the Tories want to remove our protections. Small wonder therefore that there is little attention given to the need to protect other vulnerable groups in the work place, be they people worjing with therapists or those selling sexual services. We need to return to that understanding of what workplace regulation is for, of who it is for.