Home Secretary Theresa May, still trying to find someone suitable to chair her inquiry into historical claims of sex abuse against children, told the BBC’s Andrew Marr yesterday that the allegations that have emerged so far are only “the tip of the iceberg”.
Institutions which were meant to protect children “were not doing so”, she told Marr, and society must “get the truth” about the extent of child abuse and what might have been covered up. Her comments came as the Sunday People revealed that two retired Scotland Yard detectives have come forward to corroborate the evidence of a paedophile victim known as ‘Nick’ who told the paper he saw a Conservative MP murder a young boy during a “sex party” more than 30 years ago.
The People reports that Scotland Yard are investigating three murders linked to an establishment paedophile ring. The two retired detectives say the ring was dubbed The Untouchables because those involved were “too powerful to bring to justice”.
It is now four months since police discovered that the late MP Geoffrey Dickens’s 1983 dossier detailing alleged child abusers within the Westminster establishment had disappeared, leading to questions of a cover-up. Amongst the list of alleged abusers was Rochdale MP Cyril Smith, described by his successor, Simon Danczuk, as the “29 stone bully” who sexually abused boys. Although Cyril Smith and other politicians listed in the Dickens dossier have since died, up to 20 current and former politicians remain under investigation. The allegations of abuse and murder raise direct questions about what is going on in Britain’s corridors of power.
Why are some politicians – trusted to look after the best interests of their constituencies – compelled to engage in this form of abusive behaviour, jeopardising their own careers? Is it simply that power has gone to their heads or is it indicative of deeper, more complex problems in the individuals attracted to political careers?
For the men who constitute the majority of listed paedophiles, sexual contact with children offers a number of attractions. Children, particularly those who have been neglected or who are hungry for love, are easy and rewarding targets. These children imbue their adult seducer with enormous power, to the point of becoming their – seemingly – willing slaves. The seducer is similarly hungry for love and the total admiration that may have been lacking in his own childhood.
Unconsciously, the seducer is also using the child to repeat a drama that he experienced as a child. The paedophile typically has a history of childhood neglect and abuse that he is trying to manage. One way of doing this is to adopt the role of a “benign” parent who appears to love a child, to make the child feel special and powerful, and to offer an intimacy that no one else can offer. In this role, the paedophile tries to turn the tables on his own abusive history by becoming the parent instead of the child and the seducer rather than the one who is seduced and deceived.
In cases of violent or forced sexual contact, the paedophile is also invariably enacting his own abusive childhood but in a position of mastery. Because the paedophile needs to deny the extent to which he has been hurt by neglectful or narcissistic parents as well as his own hateful feelings towards them, he is unlikely to understand what harm he is inflicting on children. The paedophile unconsciously re-enacts with his victim the contempt to which he was subjected as a child.
In his fantasy, the paedophile plays the role of being a “special mother” to a child who is then made to feel specially loved. In offering this “special” relationship, he can be better than an ordinary mother. The paedophile can then deny his own lack of a good mother and sustain an illusion that he has no need for care himself. The paedophile’s unconscious hatred of his mother, whom he has tried to supplant, and of his victims whom he has harmed, leads to feelings of guilt. The anxiety produced by guilt can only be relieved through punishment. This dynamic causes the paedophile to enter an exciting game of risk-taking. He flirts with danger, always on the brink of being found out – and punished. This is often why paedophiles, inadvertently, give themselves away, leaving evidence of their crimes in order to be caught out.
In his need for constant reassurance that he is desirable and admired, the paedophile abuses his position of power over children to gratify his narcissism. But the gratification is inevitably short-lived and the need for further reassurance, especially given the paedophile’s guilt, can cause a rapid escalation in seeking more victims and in the nature of the abuse itself – to the point of murder. It is not surprising that paedophiles, craving the love and devotion of their victims, are found among our politicians, many of whom – like showbusiness stars or authority figures in other professions – are attracted to the limelight for similar reasons. Beware the charisma of our leaders. ·
Coline Covington is the author of Shrinking the News: Headline Stories on the Couch (Karnac Books, 2013), a Training Analyst of the Society of Analytical Psychology and the British Psychotherapy Foundation, a member of International Dialogue Initiative (a group formed by Professor Vamik Volkan, Lord Alderdice, and Dr Robi Friedman to apply psychoanalytic concepts in understanding political conflict), and a regular columnist for The Week online.