Dr Em exposes the endemic nature of bullying and child sexual abuse in the charity sector. Dr Em has been banned from Medium. We rehost her work here.
I am very worried that the NSPCC and the Girl Guides are creating institutions and climates which are conducive to child sexual abuse. Those who wish to access victims will exploit situations and put themselves in positions where they are surrounded by children. It is why paedophiles entered the Catholic Church, sports coaching, gymnastics coaching, children’s hospitals and homes. One is not going to get much access to children while working on an oil rig. I’m going to repeat this until I’m blue in the face: predators will gravitate to where they have access to children, and in particular vulnerable children. They will move themselves into positions which not only provide access but also the nice guy, pillar of the community cover. They have a long game plan, they will infiltrate and work up institutions, they will silence and bully whistle-blowers out while making themselves unquestionable. You think they will not? Larry Nassar studied and worked for years to become the coach of the USA gymnastics team to fulfil his urges.
I would theorise that one of the reasons paedophiles have prospered at charities is the change in remuneration and subsequently sex balance and culture. As the charities have professionalised and begun awarding eye-watering salaries at the top, women have been forced down the rung and a bullying culture has entered. The report in June 2019, In Plain Sight, published by ACEVO and the Centre for Mental Health, assessed the alleged bullying culture across the charitable sector. It found that 80% of those employed by charities claimed to have witnessed bullying in the workplace. 1 This is, I believe, linked to the prospering of sexual abuse as it allows whistleblowers to be bullied either into silence or out of organisations. For example, in the wake of the sexual abuse of vulnerable women and children by Oxfam staff, an independent report found that Oxfam had a “toxic work environment” marked by ‘racism, sexism and bullying’. 2 British MPs declared regarding Oxfam and Hati that ‘The aid sector is guilty of “complacency verging on complicity” over an “endemic” sex abuse scandal’ and Stephen Twigg, chairman of the international development committee, said charities were “more concerned to protect their own reputation”. 3 This is not limited to Oxfam. At the UNHCR, it took Caroline Hunt-Matthes 15 years to get justice for her contract with the UNHCR being terminated after she raised concerns in 2003 over the way investigations of suspected sexual assault and rape cases were handled. 4
Hunt-Matthes first challenged UNHCR over sexual assault probes after she was deployed to Sri Lanka in October 2003 to follow up on a rape investigation initially handled by a senior manager on site. The alleged victim, a refugee hired to work as a UNHCR cleaner, had been fired while the alleged rapist, a local UNHCR staff member, was transferred. 5
Women were consistently punished by organisations for speaking about sexual abuse and rape while perpetrators were moved on internally, giving further access to new potential victims. Amnesty International appears to be following a similar pattern. A report has found that ‘Amnesty International has [a]toxic working culture’ including ‘bullying, public humiliation and discrimination’. 6 Amnesty’s prostitution policy was written by a pimp and convicted child sex trafficker. 7 How long until we hear of sex abuse and child sex abuse allegations? If you have access to Twitter I would suggest looking back through #AidToo. Victims and third-party observers may pay the price for disclosing abuse with retaliation by the perpetrator and institution’. 8 Indeed, this is happening across the sector, including at charities which work with children.
Charities and organisations working with children need the most stringent safeguarding in place. Sexual predators will make themselves beyond reproach. When I see a man accused of sexual abuse and people speaking about all he has done for the community/all of his awards/ such a nice guy etc. I think: he did it. They need to do this to gain initial access to children and then to continue offending. If you type the phrases ‘award winner’ ‘accused’ and ‘child sexual abuse’ you will have endless reading. This is one reason the aid and charitable sectors have attracted paedophiles to themselves like moths to a flame. It allows the predator to maintain a ‘good guy’ persona, protect themselves with winning community awards while permitting access to vulnerable children. This is what allowed Bob Higgins, who ran the youth training programmes at Southampton and Peterborough football clubs, to sexually abuse boys between 1971 and 1996. 9 This is why the Scouts are ‘accused of letting paedophile abuse boys during overnight camps for 30 years’. 10 This is why the Scottish Child Abuse Inquiry has found historic systematic child sexual abuse and institutional cover-up at Barnardo’s homes in Scotland. 11 This is why we were at the stage in 2017 that ‘more than 120 charity workers [were]accused of sexual abuse’ in that year alone, spanning Oxfam, Save the Children and the Red Cross. 12 Predators presenting themselves as saviours of children is very common. Dr. Anna Salter has termed this the ‘double life’. She observes that ‘many offenders will deliberately establish themselves as the kind of person who wouldn’t do that kind of thing’. 13 However, often the public face is not enough to sustain and provide cover for years of abuse. The lower down the level of an organisation the more at risk one is to exposure and not being able to control one’s environment and the narrative.
Hence, paedophiles and sexual predators need and will move themselves into senior positions. For example, Joel Davis, ‘The chairman of the International Campaign to Stop Rape and Gender Violence in Conflict has been arrested for soliciting the rape of multiple children, one as young as two-years-old’. 14 Peter Dalglish has been convicted of raping children. Dalglish ‘had spent years doing humanitarian work in Nepal, co-founded a Canadian charity called Street Kids International in the late 1980s. He has worked for several humanitarian agencies, including UN Habitat in Afghanistan and the UN Mission for Ebola Emergency Response in Liberia. He was named a member of the Order of Canada in late 2016’. 15 Or Jamie Rennie, who was the subject of ‘what many believe was Scotland’s worst child sex abuse trial’. 16
‘Jamie Rennie began working with LGBT Youth Scotland — which provides support for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender young people — as a group worker in 1997. Every week, the trained teacher would provide emotional support and advice for about 20 youngsters aged between 13 and 18 at a community centre in the Tollcross area of Edinburgh. After a year working directly with young people, Rennie moved into management and rose to become chief executive of LGBT Youth Scotland in 2003’. 17
Or what about Heathcliffe Bowen, a now convicted paedophile who ran the child safety unit at the charity MESMAC in Yorkshire? 18 Or Peter Newall, the co-ordinator for the children’s rights charity Approach which ‘received hundreds of thousands of pounds from the NSPCC, Barnardo’s, Save the Children and Unicef’ and was jailed for raping children? 19 Or Simon Harris, head of children’s charity VAE, who was convicted of sexually abusing children in Kenya? 20 Sadly, I could go on and on and on. The frequency, the repetition of this pattern is soul crushing.
Silencing of critics by institutions
One fundamental aspect of predators committing child sexual abuse for years within organisations is the silencing of external criticism and internal whistle-blowing. It is terrifying that we have recently witnessed such silencing of criticism publicly with the NSPCC. In response to an employee masturbating in fettish wear at work in the offices of the NSPCC and uploading it to a porn site linked to his professional LinkedIn account, the NSPCC declared that any critic should be reported to Twitter for hate speech and that they would support staff over child welfare.
Hundreds of women raised issues of child safeguarding with the NSPCC, but the clearest example of the block button being used to silence concerns was when the NSPCC blocked Graham Linehan for questioning the acceptability of an employee masturbating in the offices of a children’s charity.
This prioritising of adult sexualities and identities over children and child welfare is something we witnessed last year with the Girl Guides. Helen Watts’ raised safeguarding concerns over a policy change which would allow adult males to share sleeping accommodation with girls without the parent’s knowledge on the basis that these males identified as female. The change in policy to be transgender inclusive means that adult males who identify as women could be counted as one of the two women or more who must be present at all times if sleeping accommodation is shared. Male children who self-ID as girls can share accommodation, washing and changing facilities and there will be no adults present — adults do not share toilets or bathrooms with children in any circumstances. The adults have to share. How many GG leaders would be happy about communal changing or showers with a male identifying as a female? For questioning this she was expelled from the Girl Guides. 21 The NSPCC and the Girl Guides have advertised that they will close down discussion and make all kinds of logical gymnastics to support adult male desires over child welfare. They are telling potential predators that they can place themselves beyond reproach in these organisation. Palmer et al warn us that ‘just as status and power differentials play a role in child sexual abuse in institutional contexts, they also play a role in the detection of abuse. The more status and power the perpetrators and their allies possess in an organisation the more difficult it will be for victims and third-party observers to have their disclosures heard and believed’. 22 This could be soft power in the form of a supposedly ‘victimised’ identity. Child safeguarding is being discarded in order to appear progressive. I am of the opinion that the NSPCC and the Girl Guides have prioritised saving face over saving children. Palmer issues a sharp warning that ‘In organisations that provide services to children and young people, these cultures can undermine responses to child sexual abuse by prioritising the organisation’s defence against external sanctions (such as bad publicity…) over the welfare of victims’. 23 These organisations need to listen and reflect on concerns. Furthermore, they then need to find the courage to prioritise child safety over male desires.
- T. D. Adams, ‘Charity leaders must do more to address workplace bullying, report finds’, Charity Times (10 June 2019),
‘Racism, sexism and bullying reported at Oxfam’, BBC News (17 January 2019),
- ‘Aid sector ‘almost complicit’ in sex scandal, say MPs’, BBC News (31 July 2018), https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-45013078
- L. Handrahan, ‘UN settles sex assault ‘retaliation’ case after 15 years’, Dr. Lori Handrahan Consulting (5 June 2018),
- K. McVeigh, ‘Amnesty International has toxic working culture, report finds’, The Guardian (6 February 2019),
- K. Banyard, ‘Why is a pimp helping to shape Amnesty’s sex trade policy?’, The Guardian (22 October 2015), https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/22/pimp-amnesty-prostitution-policy-sex-trade-decriminalise-brothel-keepers
- D. Palmer, ‘The role of organisational culture in child sexual abuse in institutional contexts’ (2016), Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Sydney, p.29.
‘Bob Higgins: ‘Pure evil’ paedophile football coach jailed for 24 years’, Sky News (12 June 2019),
- A. Aspinall, ‘Scouts accused of letting paedophile abuse boys during overnight camps for 30 years’, The Mirror (9 April 2017),
- C. Marshall, ‘Barnardo’s apologises for child abuse at homes’, The Scotsman (3 November 2018),
- S. Khan, ‘More than 120 charity workers accused of sexual abuse in the last year alone’, Independent (11 February 2018),
- A Salter, Predators: Pedophiles, Rapists & Other Sex Offenders (New York, Basic Books, 2004), p.31.
- K. Davis, ‘Head Of Charity To Prevent Child Abuse Arrested For Soliciting Child Pornography And Sex With Minors’, RedState (27 June 2018),
- C. Perkel, ‘Order of Canada recipient Peter Dalglish found guilty of child sex assault in Nepal’ (11 June 2019), https://globalnews.ca/news/5378633/peter-dalglish-found-guilty-nepal/
- ‘Horror upon horror that unfolded in ‘worst ever’ abuse trial’, The Scotsman (07 May 2009)
- ‘Paedophile ex-council chief was also trustee of child abuse charity’, Yorkshire Post (31 January 2018), https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/crime/paedophile-ex-council-chief-was-also-trustee-of-child-abuse-charity-1-8990165
- J. Simpson, ‘Paedophile Peter Newell had key role at child charity, The Times (17 February 2018),
- ‘UK charity boss Simon Harris jailed for Kenya child sex abuse’, BBC News (26 February 2015) https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-31599524
- A. Gilligan, ‘Girl Guide leaders expelled for questioning trans policy’, The Times (23 September 2018) https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/girl-guide-leaders-expelled-for-questioning-trans-policy-550x7m55r
- D. Palmer, ‘The role of organisational culture in child sexual abuse in institutional contexts’ (2016),
Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, Sydney, p.29
- ibid. p.10.