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Murky territory

05 December 2014

By Sarah Meyrick


IT SOMETIMES feels as if there is a new and horrible revelation about the sexual abuse of children every day. Apparently, one in six British children is targeted.

In The Paedophile Next Door (Channel 4, Tuesday of last week), the documentary-maker Steve Humphries reminded us that paedophiles were not, by definition, abusers; and argued that the current witch-hunt was problematic, because it drove the problem underground.

Central to the film were two interviews. In the first, we heard the story of Ian McFadyen, who has become a well-known voice for survivors in recent months. Abused at the prep school Caldicott, Mr McFadyen described in graphic detail how his teacher had "beautifully" groomed and assaulted him, and painted a distressing picture of the lasting damage done.

Having arrived as "a cheerful, happy boy", by the age of 13 he was "off the rails", he said, drinking heavily, escaping to London, and seeking random sexual encounters with older men. Forty years on, he was still profoundly emotional as he told his story.

Then we met Eddie, a self-confessed paedophile - a paedophile in that he is attracted to children, but not an abuser, he insisted. It must have taken enormous courage to make that admission on national TV in the current climate. But the central argument of the documentary was that, if we make no place for such admissions, men who are sexually attracted to children stand no chance of seeking, let alone finding, treatment. And this is likely to have far-reaching consequences for society.

Towards the end of the programme, Ian and Eddie met on a park bench. This made for painful watching, but it is to their credit that both men made genuine attempts to understand each other. Sadly, this programme promised rather more than it delivered. But it was certainly brave to shine the spotlight into a murky corner of life, and ask challenging questions about an issue that is too often subject to an unthinking frenzy of outrage.

For light relief, you only have to turn to Posh People: Inside Tatler (BBC1, Mondays) which offers an insight into a very different, but bizarre world. All the people who work at Tatler are impossibly beautiful and rich, and simply drip privilege. (Can the features editor really be called Sophia Money-Coutts?) New recruits are given a copy of Debretts New Guide to Etiquette and Modern Manners on starting at the magazine.

Their latest joiner is Matthew, a charming redhead. (He is not posh, he insisted in a cut-glass accent; his background is more middle-class intelligentsia.) His task for the week was to gatecrash as many posh parties as possible. A colleague, meanwhile, was sent to Poundland, and was utterly enchanted by the bargains to be had there.

Tatler was founded in 1709. Asked whether it is still relevant to the modern world, the deputy editor appeared to struggle to understand the question. Luckily, the editor is in no doubt about its purpose: "People feel very soothed that Tatler still exists," she says.

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