when it comes to suspected child abuse.
Another week, another horror story about a child somewhere, in a perfectly ordinary street, in a house just down the road or in the next village, the next town, being ill treated, beaten, starved to death. We hear of it when the child is found dead, when dramatic headlines make us shudder, when the parents or childminders end up in court, justifying their miserable existence. And we stare at the angelic faces of toddlers smiling at us from the TV screen and ask ourselves how it is possible that somebody has slammed their fist into that innocent face.
How is it possible that nobody noticed before it was too late? I am not talking about professionals, the child protection services, police, social workers et al. Each time it happens they trot out the same excuses and explanations: too many cases, pressure of work, lack of funding, manipulative and sly parents pulling the wool over their eyes, lack of co-ordinated working methods, working under impossible conditions.
Be that as it may, we have to accept that the professionals do their best, although their best is often just not good enough. And always, after each new inquiry into another catastrophe: “LESSONS MUST BE LEARNED” is the mantra everyone is agreed upon.
What I want to know is: where are the neighbours, the Nosy Parker women down the road? the curtain twitchers? the women who used to make it their business to know what goes on in the block of flats? the terraced road? Everybody's auntie Ada, who knew the name of every kid, always had a nosy question, a dusty sweet, or a quick clip round the earhole if you’d done something naughty or dangerous. You ran from her mad cackle, but you also ran to her if you were in trouble.
Where is that woman now?
Keeping Herself To Herself, Minding Her Own Business, like all the others of her ilk?
I want them back, one in every street, in every block of flats. They’d know what goes on behind closed doors. They’d hear the screams of helpless children, they’d see the bruises and thin little bodies. We’d curse them for busy-bodying, we’d ridicule them for interfering in matters that don’t concern them. Instead, we should praise their vigilance and willingness to help when needed. If they saved just one of these little mites from terror and abuse, I’d gladly put up with them.
Come on, auntie Ada, do your stuff. You know you want to.