Gina Davidson: We must listen to abused kids

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ANOTHER week, another historical sexual abuse scandal rears its ugly head.

While Westminster finally gets round to appointing a chairman to lead its child sex abuse inquiry (importing a New Zealand judge after two homegrown choices were regarded as unacceptable by abuse survivors) and the government takes over Rotherham council because of its failures in protecting children, a former TV weatherman is on trial accused of sexually abusing young boys when he was their teacher.

But abuse is always closer to home than you think. This week it was revealed Police Scotland is investigating two cases of sexual abuse raised by former pupils of Edinburgh Academy – a school rocked by similar claims by actor Iain Glen 14 years ago.

Back then, Glen spoke of an air of continual violence at the private school when he was a pupil in the late 1960s and early 1970s. He also claimed he was fondled by teachers when in the showers after rugby.

His revelations prompted another former pupil, Kim Wolfe Murray, to allege that he too was regularly fondled by a teacher – in fact, the teacher would apparently call boys to the front of the class and stick his hand up their shorts.

And the late literary agent Giles Gordon also spoke of physical abuse at the school – one teacher in particular would allegedly take great delight in bending him over a desk then running the length of the room to hit him. He said, unsurprisingly, that he believed there was a sexual element to this.

Now two more former pupils have gone to the police with allegations of sexual abuse from around the time Glen was a pupil. Whether anyone will be charged – a report is with the procurator fiscal – has yet to be decided.

Let’s hope for the sake of the victims of the abuse the answer is yes. For too long, as it’s become too apparent in the wake of Jimmy Savile’s death and Operation Yewtree, the abuse of children – sexual and physical – has gone unnoticed, unrecognised and probably, for many who suffered, uncared about.

In an interview when he spoke of what happened to him, Glen said: “They were not stupid. They got you at an age where you are not quite sure what is going on.” He added there was no way he could have explained to his parents what was happening.

That is the crux of the matter. Young children know little of sex. They only know that people in positions of authority over them are to be listened to and obeyed, particularly if your parents are paying a fortune for your education.

If they are told not to tell – and are threatened with dire consequences if they do – then they don’t. It is only years later, when they realise the shame is not theirs to bear, that they can speak out about the abuse.

Which is why the news is full of heart-rending stories from adults who only now feel strong enough, emotionally stable enough, to reveal what happened to them as children.

This, bizarrely, is something for which to thank Savile. Without the exposé of his actions – and of other “celebrities” – then there are likely many victims who would still be silent. And there certainly would be no government inquiry into sexual abuse at all levels of society, in particular political circles.

The Scottish Government is to launch its own sexual abuse inquiry. Due to start in April, it will reopen the wounds of many who have been abused. They have to bear it, to continue to be as brave and dignified in the shouldering of their burden as they have been through their lives.

We must listen to their testimonies and we will, no doubt, find ourselves appalled again at what they endured.

Hopefully, most of all, we will be spurred into ensuring that blind eyes and deaf ears are never turned again to children who need help.

Inquiry office break-in adds to tram shambles

THE tram inquiry took long enough to get going, and until it was decided that no-one involved in the mess could refuse to give evidence, there was general scepticism that it would get to the bottom of just why it all took so long and cost so much.

Much of that dissipated when Lord Hardie, left, made it clear he’d be calling anyone he felt could shed some light on the debacle.

Now there’s been a break-in at the inquiry offices and laptops have been stolen – all done it would seem by someone who had a keycard to get in the building. So is this more tracks being covered, or someone who fears just that and is now holding evidence which might come to light if a whitewash is the result? Time will tell.

Plook again at design mistakes

IT is so easy to be critical of new development in Edinburgh given the sometimes jarring juxtaposition it makes with the classical designs of the New Town or the more baroque Old Town.

The Scottish Parliament is always thrown up as an example of this. But to me it’s an interesting and challenging building even if it’s one which the majority of people seem to hate. The National Museum of Scotland on the other hand has won many awards but to my eye is a bit ‘so what?’

These things are subjective, but two new developments have recently been made public and have set my teeth on edge.

The plans for the St James Quarter appear to be straight of the Big American Book of How To Build a Shopping Mall by

B. Blander McBland while those for the Haymarket gap site, pictured, look as if they’ve been misplaced by a Benidorm hotel chain. All that’s missing are some lurid towels draped from the balconies.

It’s all very well for Edinburgh Airport to receive a Zit award for its ugly new terminal building as while it’s not an accolade any architect would want, at least it’s not in the centre of town and we don’t all have to look at it. But these two sites have the potential to really offer something new to make Edinburgh a city talked about for its modern architecture in a good way. If they don’t do that, then it could be our city which knocks Aberdeen off its Plook on the Plinth perch as the Carbuncle Award comes to us for the most dismal city in Scotland.