Monday, December 08, 2008

The Hindu interviews Mr Jonathan Picken - Keynote Speaker at The Third Annual Tulir-CPHCSA Lecture
His mission is to take on child abusers
"One of the best predictors of future behaviour is past behaviour," Jonathan Picken says. Not in an arbitrary sense of generalisation, but with a sense keenly sharpened after years of looking out for children and helping others protect children against abuse. As the chair for the British Association for the Study and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect (BASPCAN), Mr.Picken gets a rapt audience wherever he talks. In Chennai recently to deliver the third annual Tulir -CPHCSA lecture, he spoke ahead of the event to Ramya Kannan.
The recent case that surfaced in Austria of a father confining and sexually abusing his daughter is merely one instance of the truth behind sexual abuse; the length people would go to abuse children. "Most perpetrators spend a great deal of time and effort plotting and also coming up with excuses. Despite the advances in technology, people are capable of doing awful things to one another," Mr. Picken says.
In fact, the advancements in technology have only added more grist to the child abuser's mill. Particularly, the Internet, is used to post sexually exploitative images of children. Perpetrators use these images to brainwash children, to force them to believe that what is happening to them is 'normal.' However, it is only one of the many ways by which children are coerced by abusers.
Very few children talk about their experiences of abuse to anyone, research has revealed. "The children are ashamed to tell anyone about the abuse," Mr. Picken explains.
A mixture of shame and fear induced by the abuser ensure that most children suffer silently.
Even when children speak to the mother, if the abuser is someone who enjoys the faith of the family, such as a teacher or a religious leader, there is often reluctance to believe the child or a tendency to gloss over the truth.
There is also an abiding belief that the abuser will change and move on.
"But such behaviour is rarely cured," he says, going on to argue that past behaviour must be considered as a clue to future behaviour, particularly with child exploiters.Multi-disciplinary approach
BASPCAN is working with teachers and heads of institutions, training them to identify and keep potential child abusers out during the recruitment process.
Mr. Picken is also a firm believer in using a multi-disciplinary approach to manage child abuse and to fight sexual exploitation of children.
"It is important for us to fight back. The abusers are very manipulative, deceitful and slippery... They share information via the Internet across the world."
In fighting them, he says, we must be able to share crucial information as easily across the world about abusers and their networks.
This information should also be shared across various local governments, so that every country, county, shire and village is prepared to save their children from abusers who have a habit of shifting their scene of operation when one place gets too hot for them.Interpol-like network
He believes that one day a process would emerge wherein governments across the world would come together to share such information through an Interpol-like network.
He has no doubt that it would indeed be a really lengthy process and there would be bureaucracy and corruption to fight against.
And yet, Mr. Picken does believe that "it is not beyond the will of government's seriousness about children's rights."
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