Last night on television might have been a watershed moment in the way we confront the problem of child sexual abuse in this country.
On BBC1, some excellent writing in a climatic episode of The Missing provided a snapshot of current attitudes. The script, by the brothers Jack and Harry Williams, draws a distinction between unrepentant homicidal paedophile Ian Garrett (Ken Stott) and guilt-ridden, treatment-seeking paedophile Vincent Bourg (Titus de Voogdt), but the response of the father of the abducted boy (James Nesbitt) was the same in both cases: panicked, violent rage.
On Channel 4, meanwhile, the documentary The Paedophile Next Door suggested an alternative. One man, Eddie, took the extraordinary, and undeniably brave step of coming out on-screen as a paedophile – no facial blurring, no voice distortion. Even so, long, distressing interviews with survivors of abuse ensured that sympathy remained, as it should be, with the child victims. It was a controversial, emotive programme, but on one point, articulated by historian Steve Humphries, all were agreed: “We really do need a new approach.”Reuse content