Yeah, that’s right. If the mainstream media can play at sensationalist titles, so can I.
Newspapers, radio shows, TV chat shows, social media and internet news outlets have been positioning Pakistani Muslim men as the ‘issue’ in child sexual exploitation for years now – and we have finally reached a point where suposedly intelligent and influential spokespersons are making frequent racist comments that generalise and dehumanise millions of people based on a handful of highly publicised cases of child sexual exploitation.
We have to fight back against the way the media propaganda and ill-informed spokespersons are affecting the discussion, practice and policy in child sexual exploitation.
In this article, I will present the facts about this issue and incorporate some psychological insight into why we might be so vulnerable to statements that position an ethnic minority group as deviant child sexual offenders. Last week, I had the privilege of filming with ITV for a new documentary which is exploring this issue, so I had done my research and gathered as much evidence and insight as I possibly could. The documentary will be aired in a few months.
I will discuss the following important points:
- When we demonise a community as sexually deviant or abusive, we fail to protect or identify victims in that community
- We are much more likely to blame a ‘culture’ or a ‘religion’ when Asian and Black people commit crimes than when white people commit violent crimes.
- We are basing much of these statements on terrible data samples and have become victims of our own confirmatory bias
- We are being distracted from the issue that sexual abuse of children is extremely common, by being encouraged to point the finger at a minority group
- This entire situation stinks of structural racism
When we demonise a community as sexually deviant or abusive, we fail to protect or identify victims
It is very difficult to gather any meaningful statistics on prevalence of child sexual abuse victimhood in South Asian communities in the UK and many people simply put this down to low rates of disclosure and high rates of stigma. Whilst both of these things play an important role, I would like to talk about the way the media and the field of CSE has repositioned South Asian communities as ‘problematic’ and ‘hard to reach’ – which will also be having a profound effect on the way people disclose or understand their own sexual abuse and exploitation.
There are thousands of cases of CSE and CSA involving South Asian children. The reason I can say this with zero evidence is because CSE and CSA is not specific to any culture, any country or any region. There are no ‘CSA-prone’ areas and there are no ‘CSA-free’ areas. There are no religions or cultures where the sexual abuse of children does not occur. Many researchers have argued that we should assume, at all times, that the prevalence of sexual abuse and exploitation of South Asian children is the same as any other children. However, after years of arguing this – we are now further back than we ever have been – because we are not only not identifying or protecting children from CSA or CSE in South Asian communities but we are collectively asking distracting questions like ‘What is is about Pakistani Muslims that makes them rape our white children?’
Questions like that cut out the victimhood of any child who is not white – and those are the questions we must rise up against with everything we have. Questions like that mean that South Asian children do not recognise their own abuse because they are not white and they don’t fit the stereotypes of the kids in the resources, the posters, the adverts and the TV programmes. Questions like that mean that the abuse and exploitation of children is being seen as an attack on white people. Questions like that make me think long and hard about our white privilege and the way we are utilising positions as dominant groups of people to ignore the abuse of South Asian children whilst writing countless commentaries, news articles and documents about the sex offending of South Asian men.
Afterall, how can it be possible that the South Asian community are referred to as simultaneously deviant colluders of sex offenders and vulnerable to sexual abuse?
If the offending of South Asian men bothers you so much, why do you not worry for the safety of their children and develop better ways of working with those people? Why do we continue to make excuses that we do not understand their cultures and child-rearing practices and therefore cannot engage them? Why do we create disclosure-focussed services where the majority of the workforce are white British with extremely low levels of understanding of any other religion, culture and value systems? Why do we comfortably sit around whilst only 22% of CSE cases even report ethnicity of the children (National Police Chief Council, 2017)? If we are only collecting ethnicity data on 22% of the children, how can we even make comments about the ‘majority of victims being white’?
Whilst we have loudly and confidently ‘called out’ the British Pakistani community as if it is one entity of people in some sort of constant sex offending group-think – we have failed to acknowledge that children in those communities are being sexually abused, they are being sexually exploited, they are being raped and trafficked by people in their own families and networks but also by White British sex offenders.
Whilst we spend our column inches on demonising an entire community, men like my friend are asked questions about why he wants to foster children:
‘Could you just tell us why you want to foster?’
‘Umm because I was in care myself – me and my wife both work in children’s services and we are at a point in our life where we can foster children and give them respite when they need it.’
‘Hmmmm. And there’s no other reason?’
‘You understand we have to be careful because of all the cases of CSE, you see.’
And strategically, where are we? Well, we are sat around tables planning ways to force predominantly Asian taxi drivers to undertake CSE awareness training or risk losing their licences. We are making dumb comments in the media like ‘we need to make the Pakistani community take responsibility for the sexual exploitation of these girls’.
Which brings me on the the next point.
We are much more likely to blame a ‘culture’ or a ‘religion’ when Asian and Black people commit crimes than when white people commit violent crimes.
People make memes about America being racist, don’t they? Here is one that will illustrate my point perfectly:
When terrorists (or alleged terrorists) conduct an attack, you will notice that the language and reporting changes consistently and significantly depending on the ethnicity of the person. This meme spread across the internet as people realised that white people can commit atrocities, mass murders and terrorist acts but will be labelled as ‘disturbed’ or ‘mentally ill’ (which I accept, has its own problems) – but when someone from Black, Asian or other ethnic communities commits the same crime, the reporting becomes about their ethnicity, their religion, their cultural values and so on.
The same is happening in CSE and we need to get a grip on this quickly.
White British men are the majority offenders of all sexual crimes in this country. However, when was the last time you saw headlines that mentioned their ethnicity?
‘White men rape children’
‘Group of White men exploit children’
‘White teacher exploits three students’
Have you ever seen that? Because, I haven’t.
Replace the word ‘White’ with ‘Asian’ and ‘Pakistani’ and you’ll have seen that a whole lot of times. Why is this?
Well, just like the example I gave you from America about terrorists, this is about attribution of cause and blame. When white people commit violent crime, no one talks about their cultures, their values, their communities or their whiteness. Everyone assumes that they chose to commit those violent crimes because of issues internal to them – the rest of the white community goes unscathed. As we know from the integrated theory of sex offending and the integrated theory of terrorism, the pathways to offending are a complex mixture of personal, developmental, social and cognitive factors. However, because most white people come from the dominant culture, no one writes an article asking ‘What is it about white culture that makes white men abuse children?’
The white person is the bad apple. The barrel is just fine.
By contrast, South Asian people do not come from the dominant culture or ethnicity in the UK, so it is an easy way to deflect for the media to write deliberate articles asking ‘What is is about the Pakistani/Muslim culture that makes Pakistani men abuse children?’
The Pakistani person is not the bad apple. The Pakistani culture (or Muslim religion depending on which tabloid you read) is the bad barrel.
Cultural norms and values are important in the offending pathways and reasoning of some sex offenders – but then we are still presented with the question:
Why don’t we examine the ethnicity, the cultural norms and values of white child sex offenders?’
We see white sex offenders as lone wolves, weirdos, creeps, paedos, psychos, sickos and pervs. Those words all situate the issue within the offender – that there is something ‘wrong’ with them. We see Asian sex offenders as some sort of slave to their culture and religion that has embedded into them the need to abuse children. Those messages do not identify the abuser as the problem, but the South Asian culture or the religion of Islam.
This is scapegoating at it’s finest.
If you truly care whether culture and values underpin sexual offending against children I suggest you read up on the hypersexualisation of children in society, porn culture, misogyny, patriarchal societies, hierarchies in society of adults and children, power imbalances, stigma of disclosure, glorification of sexual violence and ‘sex work’.
We are basing much of these statements on terrible data samples and have become victims of our own confirmatory bias
Ahhh the statistics. The statistics that are being thrown around the media with joy. The statistic from CEOP that 26% of CSE offenders were Asian men.
The data samples are horrendous. Here are some important statistics you need to know about this issue:
- In 2015, the OCC said ‘Ethnicity data is only collected in around 30% of cases of CSE’
- In 2011, the CEOP report had a paragraph underneath the statistics which said that the statistics were not representative and they were only able to identify the ethnicity of 60% of the offenders in the cases – so the statistics should not be used to generalise or come to any conclusions about ethnicity of offenders
- In 2011, the CEOP report containing the ethnicity of CSE offenders (which failed to collect hardly any ethnicity data at all by the looks of things) only identified around 6% of the offenders as British Pakistani men. The ‘26%’ statistic came from the category ‘Asian’ which was then split out into Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Other. Other was huge – Pakistani and Bangladeshi were a few per cent each.
- In 2014, Aslan & Edelmann conducted a study of CSE offenders online and found that 94% of them were White British men under 26 years of age
- In 2017, the National Police Chief Council released statistics which confirmed that the majority of CSE offenders are White British men but it also admitted that it did not know the ethnicity of 66% of the offenders in the 6107 cases they identified.
What you should be able to see here, is that the samples being used to draw massive conclusions about ethnicity of CSE offenders are extremely poor quality – and where the data is of decent quality (such as Aslan & Edelmann) the trend becomes very clear. The majority of child sex offenders in the UK in CSE are White British men. The data coming from CEOP, NPCC and others are so poor that they would not pass peer review to draw any such conclusions.
If I conducted a study in which 6000 people told me whether they had ever stolen anything from a shop, but only 30% of them told me their sex (male or female) – I would not be able to draw any conclusions about whether males were more or less likely to shoplift than females – because my data isn’t good enough.
Instead, what has happened in CSE, is that these rogue statistics from terrible samples have been propped up by confirmatory bias – with people saying ‘Look at Rochdale, Rotherham, Derby, Oxford. Telford! They were all Asian men! It’s a trend I tells ya!’
To them I say:
‘Uhuh, that’s a handful of cases. What about the other 2150 cases of CSE prosecuted in 2012, of which the large majority were White British men? Do they not count in your ‘trend?’
The reality is – this is the result of confirmatory bias – the cognitive bias of irrational humans (and we are all irrational) to see something that confirms their existing beliefs to use as evidence to support those beliefs whilst ignoring any evidence to the contrary.
And the only ‘trend’ in sex offending is that it is men that largely commit these crimes.
And yet no one is saying ‘Men! Stop raping children!’ On the front of the tabloids. No one is asking ‘what is it about men that means they abuse women and children?’
We are being distracted from the issue that sexual abuse of children is extremely common and being encouraged to point the finger at a minority group
The result of this mass distraction tactic is that the general public and even professionals I work with, are convinced that this is a ‘Muslim issue’ or are telling me ‘the Asian communities need to rise up and publicly condemn these acts of sexual abuse!’
Why do they? Do you ‘rise up and condemn’ acts of abuse every time a white guy rapes someone?
Do you feel implored to put up Facebook statuses when white people commit crimes?
‘I am just writing this status to say, that as a white person, I condemn the acts of this white child abuser today. Not all white people are child abusers.’
Didn’t think so.
Instead of accepting the fact that sexual abuse and exploitation of children has been going on for centuries – in every corner of every land in the world – we are using ‘look-over-there tactics to make this about an ethnic minority. Something that only a dominant ethnic group could do. Despite the fact that most sex offenders are white, no one is challenging our white culture. No one is writing headlines about whiteness being linked to raping children – despite the correlation being much stronger and the incident rates being much higher on paper.
We are being deliberately distracted by the mainstream media and some spokespersons – away from abuse being a systemic, structural and global issue, to the finger pointing at one community. This is a self-preservation tactic. This is ‘othering’. This is demonising millions of people who follow Islam and millions of people in this country of South Asian descent whilst ignoring the fact that they live in a society that largely ignores their abuses and harms.
How do the media even get away with the fact that they have just spent years reporting hundreds of cases of child sexual abuse and exploitation committed by rich, powerful white guys in the public eye – and then make claims that this is predominantly a Pakistani/Muslim/South Asian/Asian issue. Have they forgotten the skin colour of Rolf Harris, Jimmy Saville and their ilk? Have they forgotten the skin colour of the numerous priests, vicars, teachers, careworkers and nuns who abused and exploited children for decades? Have they ever written articles about their religion or cultures?
There are those that say ‘Police and local authorities ignored cases of CSE because it was Pakistani men!’
Well, unfortunately, I have a sober reality for you:
Police and local authorities have ignored and failed in plenty of cases of child sexual abuse, rape, domestic homicide, child neglect and so on – and there was no possibility that was based in ethnicity because the offenders and victims were all white. In actual fact, what we see is a huge inertia and unwillingness to tackle abuse of humans – and whatever reason that can be given will be given:
“But, victim blaming!”
Cases of abuse are missed, dropped, ignored and failed in this country every single day – and having worked in this field for 8 years, I’ve seen that for my own eyes. Its not based in racism or political correctness – its based in a stigma around abuse.
This entire situation stinks of structural racism
I teach my kids that when they are born into positions of power (they are White, wealthy and male) they have a responsibility to ensure that they never contribute towards – and actively campaign against the discrimination and harm of people without their privileges.
Similarly, this is what we all must learn. This situation – that of the scapegoating and finger-pointing at South Asian Muslims as the ‘enemy’ as the ‘Pakistani men who rape our white girls’ – stinks of structural racism. I have never seen a white politician or white journalist question the whiteness of child sex offenders or ask ‘uncomfortable, brave questions’ about why our culture is so completely jam-packed with abusers. But this move towards racism is not new. For centuries, white people have positioned Black and Asian people as deviant, dangerous, unsophisticated and uneducated. Genocides and Apartheid were preceded by time period where those people were dehumanised, scapegoated and pointed to as the source of every social problem.
We know that structural racism in our CJS is still alive and well because the Home Office published an info graphic two years ago which showed:
- If you are Black or Asian, you are up to three times more likely to be arrested for a violent offence
- If you are Black or Asian, you are 7 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than a white person
- If you are Black or Asian, you are much more likely to be given a custodial sentence for the same violent crimes committed by a white person
- If you are Asian, on average you will receive a custodial sentence 10 months longer than a white person who committed the same crime as you
We cannot ignore that this is the society we have built and maintain. How can we possibly argue that this convenient scapegoating of South Asian communities based on a handful of cases is not based in racism? How can we ignore comments like the follow up to Sarah Champion’s article where the writer for The S*n called CSE ‘The Muslim Problem’?
This is the deliberate ignorance of tens of thousands of white sex offenders and the close examination and public demonisation of a few hundred Asian sex offenders to turn them into the new ‘folk devils’.
These offenders are committing the same crimes. They are both raping children. They are both making and distributing images. They are both grooming children. They are both trafficking children. They are both causing serious harm to numerous children. All sex offences are absolutely life changing and abhorrent. All sex offenders have the capability to make decisions about whether they act out their fantasies or impulses. All sex offenders carry out self-satisfying crimes to harm another human.
But when white men do it, the issue is situated within them as a person – not the white community or their whiteness.
And when Asian men do it, they are seen as an product of their deviant communities, cultures and religions. This dehumanises the offenders – it reframes them as mindless followers – not dynamic, decision making sex offenders like the white men.
And when you make harmful, irrational generalisations about an entire ethnicity or culture based on an individual’s actions, what do you call that again?
The word you are looking for is ‘racist’.
If you are interested in this topic – why not join Abdul and I as we tour the UK next year to talk about this in much more depth?
Written by Jessica Eaton