Added: September 5, 2015 – Last updated: September 5, 2015


Authors: Adrian Bingham and Louise Settle

Title: Scandals and silences

Subtitle: The British press and child sexual abuse

Journal: History & Policy: Policy Papers

Volume: -

Issue: -

Year: August 4, 2015

Pages: -

Language: English

Keywords: 20th Century | English History | Representations: Press; Types: Child Sexual Abuse


Link: History & Policy (Free Access)



Adrian Bingham, Department of History, University of Sheffield

Louise Settle, Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of


»* Press coverage has been vital in pushing child sexual abuse up the public agenda since the 1970s: it has encouraged survivors to report offences and prompted politicians, local authorities, social workers and the police to develop policy responses.
* For most of the twentieth century, however, the press missed numerous opportunities to define and highlight child sexual abuse as a problem.
* Offences against children, particularly those committed by people in positions of authority, regularly featured in newspaper columns, but the reporting was usually brief, euphemistic and focused on human interest rather than on the cultures and practices that enabled abuse.
* This press passivity was not an inevitable result of the constrained public discussion of sex before the 1960s: one of the first modern newspaper crusades, conducted by the Pall Mall Gazette in 1885, was on the evils of child prostitution.
* The failure of the press to prioritise child sexual abuse as a social problem can be attributed to its adherence to the definitions and assumptions of the legal system, its reliance on court reporting as a source of entertainment and titillation rather than social commentary, the male dominance of newsrooms, and the weakness of its investigative tradition.
* While child sexual abuse is now firmly on the press radar, several elements of this earlier journalistic culture remain and continue to distort coverage of offences against young people.« (Source: History & Policy Policy Papers)


  The ‘Maiden Tribute campaign’
  Court reporting and judicial commentary
  Alternative perspectives?
  ‘Sex maniacs’
  The emergence of the ‘paedophile’
  Further Reading
  About the author

Wikipedia: Child sexual abuse