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Chris Grady: Grooming - step forward, speak out

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The news seems to be splattered with worrying revelations about the abuse and grooming of young people, from within the BBC, at a school near our home, and the awful news from Wales. As a colleague of mine said today, what is it that takes away the brain's ability to stop, think again, and not do it? 

One of the saddest things for me is knowing that this will continue to change people's attitudes to allowing normal activity by young people working with or around adults in a healthy and creative way. Chaperones, careful guidelines and safe environments are essential. But when I was 6-7 I was off on my bike by myself, and encouraged to be independent. 

I went off to work as a techie when I was 11 at the local operatic society, driven by a teacher who was in the orchestra – I guess he wouldn’t be allowed to do this now, and I wouldn’t be able to work with a company of adults to learn my craft.

But my distress in watching the incredibly calm and chilling documentary on ITV last week was to realise that young children, now in their 50s, had remained silent about the abuse they had experienced. Their very silence meant other children, now in their 30s and 40s, continued to be groomed. Childline was too late, and maybe would have failed them even now. The BBC failed them all. Their silence gnawed away at their souls, and even talking on the documentary they didn’t think they would be believed. Awful. 

Out there there must be other adult predators, still alive, still working with young people. There must be boys and girls in their early 20s who have been groomed, abused or disturbed by those they should have been able to trust. They must be supported and encouraged to come forward. 

I was reading last night about the difference between, and the battle between, shame and guilt. Shame is the more powerful in that it is when you accuse yourself. Guilt is when others blame or accuse you of something. Shame is what stops people coming forward. Guilt is what needs to be felt. I'm sorry to sound so horrible - but anyone who has been groomed or abused needs to come forward because they are otherwise guilty of harbouring information which could stop the abuse happening to a young boy or girl today, tomorrow. Surely no-one wants that on their conscience.

Whilst there are people still out there working in television, theatre, education, sport, or any field with young boys and girls who are known to have abused the trust placed on them, then witnesses must not stay silent. What was the slogan? Just Say No. Now there needs to be another – Step Forward, Speak Out. Whilst it's right and fitting that the BBC and the Police should investigate the history of a dead man and his living victims, so too must they look at those who are still active predators, or very recently involved in grooming.

I hope TIE companies, and those working through drama to empower young people to find their voice will help all young people, graduates and theatergoers to Step Forward and Speak Out. The police can’t act without witnesses.  We must all find ways through our own theatre voices to protect future young people from the damage which may be inflicted upon them.


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