This is our truth, tell us yours
Jem has, after issuing appropriate content warnings, written brilliantly about the death of Poppi Worthington here. Please exercise self care while reading this post too since it discusses the environments in which child abuse takes place.
One of the things I know about workplace safety is that there’s always a risk, when we flag up new risks to colleagues, that they forget all the other risks they’ve also been briefed on. So if you’re in a training session about lone working, for instance, you have to make sure that you cover all the other risks that might arise. Want an example? It’s all very well checking the client assessment before you go to the door to make sure you’re safe with them on your own, but it doesn’t help if you forget your hi-viz jacket and get run over crossing the road. Safety is not about the latest or the greatst risk, but all the risks, managed appropriately.
Jem is right to lambast the catalogue of errors that led to Poppi Worthington’s death not being adequately investigated.The problem, simply,is that we run the risk of having a succession of moral panics about specific instances of child abuse, another Rotherham, another Rochdale, another Oxford, another meticulous serious case review, and forget the golden rule. It can happen anywhere.
By anywhere I don’t mean geography, but environments and cultures.
Poppi Worthington was murdered in a family that had inadequate housing, no boundaries and little order or routine. For every Poppi there is a teenage boy or girl at risk hanging round the bus station, a primary school child being abused by a relative or someone a little older being abused in a position of trust, all of them from different environments, different backgrounds, with different causes and reasons forbeing where they are, being abused by people as varied in background and personality as you can imagine. For every male child sex abuse victim I have spoken to who came froma dysfunctional home or an insecure background, marked out by spells in borstal or under the care of social services, there was a boy like me, from a stable home, who who sailed under the radar, unnoticed despite the signs being available. I suspect the same is true for female victims too.
The default practice has to be a constant curiosity, a constant inquiry into any situation where a child might be at risk. The signs that Poppi Worthington had been abused were clear; no-one cared enough to look. Too many serious case reports have that section where the author explains that signs were missed, that there were opportunities to have identified the risk, but someone’s eyes were averted, their gaze focussed elsewhere.