Abuser or victim?

Almost forty years ago I started one of the first agony columns of the air.
I expected a handful of letters, I got scores and too many of them came from the victims of sexual abuse. For years they had hugged their secret to themselves, now they could tell a voice on the radio who would not recognise them if she passed them in the street.

Since then, I have heard from thousands of victims of child sexual abuse, all of them traumatised, many of them damaged permanently.
But I’ve also heard from a smaller, but not inconsiderable, number of people who claimed to have been falsely accused.
Their letters too were painful to read. And although many of them were eventually vindicated they too were scarred for life. So were their families.
Now we seem to be in the grip of a kind of hysteria about paedophiles. If it continues, two things are sure. The public will grow sceptical and some real abusers will escape and continue to abuse. And the reputation of some innocent people will be trashed beyond repair.
One commentator on television stressed the importance of believing the victims. The trouble is that, if you are falsely accused, you too become a victim. How do we deal with that?


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