Letters: Break the silence on child abuse | Child protection


I read with deep sadness the article by Sonia Sodha (Comment), particularly his notion that we “live in a society where there is so much guilt, shame and fear surrounding child sexual abuse that there are powerful collective instincts to try to minimize it”. Attitudes, it seems, have changed little since I was brought up in ‘care’ in Scotland (Falkirk) and England (Northampton) in the 1960s and 1970s. adults (men and women) were commonplace. This was not just in children’s homes, foster homes and the church, but also in the wider community. Yet, as Sodha so shrewdly identifies, then as now, child abuse and cruelty simultaneously seem to be everywhere but nowhere: indifference, silence and blame from adults and abusers.

No one, not then, not now, ever wanted to know, so you quickly learn to stop talking altogether. Even today, certain cruelties are difficult to explain and describe. It is often difficult to exclude these experiences, let alone try to communicate them, even if someone was willing to listen. So, as the title of the article aptly says, “As long as we look away from sexual abuse, we will continue to disappoint children.”
Dr John Finlay
New Town, Edinburgh

In 2016 our 14 year old son told us he had been sexually abused by my husband’s father, which made sense of what my intuition told me about grandfather’s act devoted to my stepfather, constantly buying presents, wanting to spend more time alone with our son. We immediately cut all ties and found specialized therapy for our son through Rape Crisis. Several child protection charities, a trusted assistant director, our GP, Rape Crisis therapists knew about the abuse but my son was adamant he didn’t want to go to the police and see our son live again his trauma with no guarantee of conviction was enough to convince us that we could not force him to act otherwise.

This is what I find most problematic – that there is a responsibility on the victim, not the abuser, to protect potential future victims – because the taboo of sexual abuse weighs heavily on victims in our justice system and that abusers can walk among us protected by society’s belief that it happens to “other people.”
Name and address provided

And green gas?

It was welcome to see an article discussing hydrogen and home heating, but why was there no mention of the so-called green gas, which can be made from regular grass in a digester (“The big bet of hydrogen: hot air or the holy grail of net zero“, Company)? It is essentially biomethane, has low emissions and is tested to fuel and operate standard existing household boilers.

In contrast, hydrogen would require an expensive new boiler and possibly pipework and is probably best suited for heavy transport and other uses, although a proportion could be added to green gas, particularly if manufactured from eco-sourced electricity.
Stuart Bell
Wallingford, Oxfordshire

When discussing the possibility of replacing natural gas with hydrogen for home heating, there was a claim that “no one is talking about the fact that changing over 24 million homes will take decades and decades “. The last time we switched from town gas (essentially hydrogen) to natural gas for home heating was exactly eight years from 1968 to 1976. We did it then; we could do it again now.
Owen Wells
Ilkley, West Yorkshire

The benefits of vaping

Your op-ed on vaping doesn’t match the science (“Before embracing vaping, we need to know more about its long-term risks”). No credible scientist says vaping is “completely safe” – few things are. The thing is, vapes are much, much less harmful than smoking. Additionally, the public health consensus that vaping is a “significantly less harmful” alternative to smoking is based on sound independent reviews of scientific evidence, not “assumptions.”

The evidence on whether vaping helps smokers quit isn’t “mixed,” as your editorial suggests. The weight of high-quality evidence – from Cochrane and others – shows that e-cigarettes are more effective than nicotine replacement therapy in helping smokers quit. Cochrane reviews are a highly trusted source of objective health data used by decision makers around the world.

Vaping is a harm reduction option for people trying to quit deadly smoking and the availability of e-cigarettes in the UK has helped many do just that. If all smokers switched to vaping, many lives could be saved and many cancers, heart and lung diseases prevented.

The UK’s ‘liberal approach’ very clearly does not recommend the use of e-cigarettes for people who have never smoked. The public health community is united in the need to take action to make e-cigarettes less available and less appealing to children. Tobacco use leads to preventable deaths, disease and health inequalities. We must maximize the use of all tools available to help people quit smoking, including e-cigarettes.
Prof. Ann McNeillprofessor of tobacco addiction, King’s College London; Dr. Jamie Hartmann-BoyceAssociate Professor, University of Oxford; Prof Caitlin NotleyProfessor of Addiction Science, Norwich Medical School, UEA; Professor Nick HopkinsonProfessor of Respiratory Medicine, Imperial College, London; Professor Paul AveyardProfessor of Behavioral Medicine, University of Oxford; Professor Linda BauldProfessor of Public Health, University of Edinburgh; Professor John BrittonEmeritus Professor of Epidemiology, University of Nottingham; Dr Leonie BroseLecturer in Addiction Education and Nicotine Research, King’s College London; Professor Jamie Brownco-director of the Research Group on Tobacco and Alcohol, UCL; Dr. Katie East, Research Associate, King’s College London; Prof Peter Hajek, Director of Tobacco Addiction Research Unit, QMUL; Dr Sarah JacksonPrincipal Investigator, Tobacco and Alcohol Research Group, UCL; Dr. Debbie RobsonLecturer in Tobacco Harm Reduction, King’s College London; Prof Lion Shahabco-director of the Research Group on Tobacco and Alcohol, UCL; Dr Erikas SimonaviciusResearch Associate, King’s College London; Eve Taylorresearch assistant, King’s College London; Professor Robert WestEmeritus Professor of Health Psychology, UCL

Menopause for all

Eleanor Mills writes about coffee mornings and chic white women discussing menopausal symptoms, sharing their experiences, Davina and breaking the taboo (“Menopause is not a dirty secret. Period“, Concentrate). And she’s right, I’m part of it! Women’s health was, and still is, the prerogative and privilege of a privileged part of society.

The platform that people like Davina et al stand on is powerful. But it needs to be expanded. And where are the masses of influential men who champion this medical crisis in a woman’s life? Warming your hands with your back to the fire?

Physicians from all walks of life urgently need training. They just don’t know enough about the condition. Sexual health in the national agenda should include menopause extensively, not fleetingly. My teenage children live with a postmenopausal mother; I educate them, by normalizing menopause, that their mother does not go crazy.

A radical change is needed; start at the local level in education, increased funding and targeted inclusion. Only then will all women benefit.
Sian Miller
Guilford, Surrey

The Call of the Wild

Fox-a-Gon’s Terry Woods is quoted as saying that foxes’ breeding season, “usually in December or January, can be voluble but is very short” (“On the trail of the real urban fox“, Concentrate). I disagree: the pair in front of my bedroom window are there every night.
Richard Chatten
London SE19


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