William Roache is Coronation Street’s longest serving actor, and the only surviving original cast member. With such an impressive accolade to his name, and many years experience of the showbusiness world to his credit, one thing you think he would have learnt is some common sense.
It appears not. In amongst the recent news he has split from ITV weather presenter Emma Jesson, and given up sex to join the somewhat ambiguous Pure Love Movement, we can be forgiven for thinking that he’s gone a little zen and left of centre.
What is less forgivable though, is implying as he did in a recent television interview in New Zealand, was that “victims of paedophiles bring abuse upon themselves because of what they have done in previous lives.”
He also suggested that we should be totally forgiving to those accused of child sex crimes and also non judgemental.
Childhood in essence, should be a time of happiness and carefree abandon, absorbing every new experience, and every beautiful view that the world has to offer. I remember myself, from the vantage point of my wheelchair, marvelling at beautiful flowers and landmarks for example.
The notion that children bring sex crimes upon themselves is disgusting enough to make my jaw drop and to make me emotionally recoil in horror.
However, the notion those children should spend their childhood in a state of continuous hypervigilance looking for spiritual atonement is myopic to say the least, and repulsive at most. Most children are too busy playing with their toys and getting to grips with the world to get to grips with reincarnation.
This also implies that sexual abuse is some kind of punishment, which I find abhorrent. What kind of world would that imply we live in? Moreover, what could a child do that would be so disgusting that they should be punished with sexual abuse?
In my own view, abuse by paedophiles, rape more generally, and sexual assaults are the punishments no one deserves. Yet their scars are indelible, and cannot be easily countenanced nor washed away.
Also, Bill Roache’s comments are insulting to those belief systems that would never condone paedophilia, but who do understand past lives to be a tenet of those particular belief systems.
Does William Roache know the damage he has done with these comments? How many wounds he will have re-opened? How many children might be crying themselves to sleep as a result of his comments? If not, he ought to!
Secondly, the kinds of questions William Roache posed are actually the kind of questions the victims of paedophiles ask themselves, for example is it my fault? If I’d been nicer would they still have done it? Is it my fault?
With the increasing prevalence of a victim blaming culture worldwide, this should sound alarm bells and neon warnings to professionals working in the field of childhood sexual abuse supporting its victims.
William Roache’s comments were crass vile and ill judged. The reporting and conviction rates are low for such crimes and this will not help to raise them. It is a hard enough job to raise the morale and self esteem of these traumatised children.
Being raped is stigma enough for a child, for it is something not many people, let alone other children will be able to understand, unless they have been in the same situation.
Roache also suggested that we should be non-judgemental and forgiving towards perpetrators of child sexual abuse, whether convicted or not.
Now being honest, nothing challenges my personal understanding of forgiveness and non-judgemental behaviour more than abuse, and rape in particular. Allegorically, it is like going into someone’s house, stealing every possession from it, then burning the house to the ground.
Why choose this allegory? Well put simply because sexual abuse is a robber, that takes and plunders everything, from your dignity, through to your confidence, self-esteem and identity.
It is one of those scenarios where I truly believe you are never quite the same again. Childhood does not respect their right to bodily autonomy and control over their own body, but tears through it like a callous predator, a guillotine through the soul.
The part of Roache’s plea that I really struggle with personally, is the assumption we should forgive and be non-judgemental. Many religions preach forgiveness as a core belief. Now don’t get me wrong, I believe in forgiveness.
There are people, who can forgive their abusers, and I have the utmost respect for them, but knowing how much my own abuser damaged me (the abuse was not sexual however) I could not. I lived with his abuse long after he mercifully departed my life.
The sense also that we should forgive regardless of a conviction seems to me frankly barmy, and the highest in a hierarchy of insults to the victim of a paedophile. Whilst William Roache is busy preaching pure love, there is a victim somewhere being abused, another victim trying to untangle the mess that their life has become, and a further victim trying to recover from the trauma, trying to make sense of themselves and their history with many setbacks. Put simply, trying to live again. Thankfully though, there are also professionals and counsellors trying to debunk the victim blaming myth, as they dedicate their lives to working with victims. Counsellors acknowledging victims scars fully, and helping them to feel, and eventually, heal to a functional level though I don’t believe you ever heal completely.
Soaps deal with such storylines all the time and you would think their actors would know better, particularly with the Kirsty and Tyrone storyline about to conclude, coupled with the allegations Michael Le Vell (Kevin Webster in the ITV soap) is facing.
At the end of the day William Roache, this is not about pure love, forgiveness or being non-judgemental. It is about fractured children, who have to cope with the most visceral of intrusions into their bodies at a young age.
What antidote would William suggest to them, for their broken trust and relationships to heal? For the flashbacks and the nightmares they endure? Should they have to forgive their victims too?
Any judgement or lack of forgiveness paedophiles face is apposite to the crimes they commit. I struggle to see why some see them on a sexual spectrum, where it is deemed reasonable to find children attractive, as long as you do not act on it.
In my view, what this should encourage us to do is renew our support for victims, and to pay little attention to the inane misguided ramblings of the out of touch William Roache. He has said sorry which I respect, but to issue a diktat of forgiveness is beyond the pale. Paedophiles must recognise the gravity of what they have done, and the damage caused. The love, caring, compassion and support should be for the victim. Whether they are prepared to forgive William Roache remains to be seen. It’ll take more than one of Deirdre’s burnt offerings to sort this Ken!