The interviews in Dispatches'(C4) film about child abuse in South Africa were being shown with "full and informed consent", explained a Channel Four release accompanying the tape. This was reassuring, but only up to a point - because precisely what "full and informed consent" means in relation to a frightened five-year-old isn't very clear. One of the more upsetting passages of Tom Roberts' film showed a deeply traumatised child being tutored in court procedures with the help of a wooden dollhouse and some poignantly guileless woollen dolls. Presumably a similar exercise wasn't carried out to explain the chain of inspection and broadcast involved in a television documentary - with clumsy figurines standing in for the commissioning editor or, for that matter, the newspaper reviewer. And presumably too, the three-year-old boy who had been sodomised by a worker at his local creche did not carefully weigh the consequences of being filmed while having his bath. Of course, I'm being deliberately obtuse here - what was meant, I take it, was that parents had consented on behalf of their children, further reassured by the fact that the film wouldn't be broadcast in South Africa.

But the fact that neither of these sequences would have been acceptable in a British context without some protective pixellation did raise the question of distance. Roberts' film was about the huge increase in reported instances of child rape and sexual abuse since the ending of apartheid, a phenomenon which holds true for all communities. No one is quite sure whether this represents a genuine eruption of sexual violence or a new willingness to talk about something that has always been the case. But most of those talking here were agreed that the problem was a delayed symptom of apartheid's mental deformations - raising the possibility that an entire society might be suffering some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder. It doesn't help matters that South Africa's justice system is not exactly up to speed with current methods in dealing with such crimes: "How did you feel when he did this?", a policeman asked one young victim, "Did you enjoy it or was it painful?" The backlog of cases is such that the police arrest suspects in batches, though given judicial scepticism most of them are soon on the streets again, where they may re-offend or suffer the unreliable justice of local mobs. At times, such passages seemed a straightforward case of foreign reporting - a reminder that a society cramped into an unnatural shape for decades is unlikely to be able to straighten out without pain. But they couldn't help but bring some questions closer to home. Were these cases really foreign to our own experiences or did the intervening miles allow us to see, unblurred, how even the most sophisticated adversarial system might press on an open wound? And do we conceal the features of our own victims solely because of problems of identification, or because it is just too disquieting to look at unfuzzed?

That there are more benign ways for male passions to express themselves was confirmed in Several Careful Owners (BBC2) , a compact run-about of a programme, ideal for the busy scheduler who wants something to park in those tight, 10-minute spaces. The first of the series followed the fortunes of a Police Capri - talking to those who had come into contact with it over the years. While in uniform it was both loved and loathed - some police drivers regarding its tendency to peel off the road during high-speed chases an undesirable attribute in a pursuit vehicle. One man gleefully recalled sliding it sideways into a mini-roundabout and taking two neat sections out of the alloy wheels, almost as if he had relished the opportunity to take his revenge. After passing through the hands of several luckless buyers, it ended up with Mark, for whom it represented the fulfilment of a childhood dream. Ford had marketed it as "the car you've always promised yourself" and in Mark's case the line was true. He spent several thousand pounds reconstructing it and ended with an "until death do us part" declaration of fidelity. I doubt that he could have done as much for any woman, but then what woman would have remained mutely patient as her chassis was rebuilt from scratch?

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