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The return of the repressed: secrets. lies, denial and "historical" child sexual abuse scandals

Greer, C. ORCID: 0000-0002-8623-702X & McLaughlin, E. (2015). The return of the repressed: secrets. lies, denial and "historical" child sexual abuse scandals. In: Whyte, D. (Ed.), How corrupt is Britain? (pp. 113-123). London, UK: Pluto Press.


This chapter may seem like an awkward fit for a book on the causes, extent and consequences of institutional corruption, which is conventionally defined and understood as financial and political malfeasance: that is, fraud, bribery, fraud, extortion, embezzlement, insider dealing, market manipulation, nepotism, buying influence and so on. However we would argue that there is a need to widen the frame of institutional corruption to include moral touchstone issues such as institutional child sexual abuse. This is a classic case of institutional corruption because it involves exploitation of the most basic kind, namely the sexual abuse of the vulnerable, powerless and dependent in institutions that are entrusted with the power to care, protect, help and/or educate.

It is important to realise that in these institutions, like the others discussed in this book, we find concentrations of status hierarchies and networks, privilege, power relations, vested interests and ideological agendas. They are also places where secrets and lies are monitored and policed, and because of the nature of the crime, where various forms of blackmail take place. Child sexual abuse morally corrupts any institution in which it takes place because it is a criminal violation of the stated purpose and expectations of the institution. The corruption is deepened if it is established either in public perception or legal fact that the institution had/has knowledge of the criminality and through inaction, incompetence or concealment, had/has protected perpetrators and disregarded or undermined victims and/or silenced whistleblowers. When unveiled, the resultant scandal about the criminality, the institutional knowledge and the decision to place institutional reputation before the interests of victims corrodes the legitimacy of that institution, particularly if it is a culturally venerated institution. The public revulsion damages the reputation of anyone associated with the institution, and undermines public trust in institutions.

Publication Type: Book Section
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Departments: School of Policy & Global Affairs > Sociology & Criminology
[thumbnail of CRO 2015 - How Corrupt is Britain - Secrets, Lies and Denial at the BBC.pdf] Text - Accepted Version
This document is not freely accessible due to copyright restrictions.


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