Something to read on White Ribbon Day

I am a firm believer that violence, abuse and assault (sexual or non-sexual) are never made better or worse on account of the gender, sexuality, ethnicity or any other factor of the perpetrator or victim, and for this reason refuse to lend support to White Ribbon Day, only to gender-neutral campaigns against domestic or other violence. I am very concerned to think there are parents who think it is somehow less serious if someone gives black eyes to, knocks out teeth from or breaks a rib of a son than of a daughter – or for that matter indulges in violence which does not do serious physical harm, but is intended to control and demean them, with no easy way out. I do not believe there is a difference, nor with other forms of psychological or emotional abuse.

It is not surprising when sectarian women’s organisations try to dismiss the importance of domestic violence against men, massage figures to minimise it, and so on , and in general what they say on such matters should be ignored. When it comes to men who are indifferent to or contemptuous about violence against other men (whether committed by men or women), I wonder whether one is witnessing just another rendition of macho competitiveness, happy to beat up or see beat up others in the belief this will impress the ladies; naturally I am sceptical about the motives of many such men.

But today I wanted to copy, anonymously but with permission, something posted last week by a friend on a Facebook thread, which I found moving and also very humane (quite exceptionally so) in the refusal simply to indulge in hate against his abuser. Remember that it is people like this whose experiences are being sneered at with contempt and dismissed by so many.

I was a victim of violence when you taught me. My (then) wife was half my size and I am a certified martial arts instructor, so her violent attacks were of very minor physical threat, but I believe that I have experienced for many years the psychological devastation of being severely abused by someone. The intent and attempt to do something to someone is enough to cause severe depression, lower your ability to function and lead you very close to suicide. Near the end of the relationship, I would cry for no reason for 45 minutes. I realise that I did not feel the health impact that a woman would feel physically when she’s up against a man, but I think that psychologically the only difference was that it took more time for me to reach that low point that women would reach much faster because of the physical effects they suffer. I had to protect my child in many ways from her and of course stayed on for as long as I could for the sake of my child.

[…] [Gaps represent other people’s contributions in the thread]

Thanks for the support. I haven’t been faced with this [people saying ‘it’s not the same’ or ‘surely they can defend themselves’] however, as whenever I have spoken about this matter, I have always explained that the difference between a male victim and a female victim is time. The results are the same psychologically. Also, lets face it, I am not someone you can injure even if you try. However, attacking a man who is not fit, could result in injury even if the assailant is female and furthermore, a man’s psychology is even more fragile then, because of the matters of masculinity shame that can occur as well as the matter of the law being on the side of the woman if the man fights back. It is complicated, very, but I believe that there is much awareness around the subject. And I can confirm that it is soul destroying in other ways than the inverted experience. Lets make it clear… violence, oppression and abuse have no gender… What changes with gender is the time and the means by which it occurs.


I’ve always felt females at more adept at psychological abuse than men. Many would even admit that the bullying among their own gender can be more nasty than male equivalent. Maybe knowledge of their own physical limitations is part of it, but also I feel by nature they’re simply more astute socially, better communication skills that can serve bad and twisted motivations if they have them. In circumstances of bullying a male, this amounts to knowing very well where his balls are (metaphorically speaking). I can only speak for the circles I’ve moved in, but it seems there’s a good percentage who loathe to be remotely like that, fortunately.


Dear Ian, feel free to use anything I write publicly. For me the struggle was to realise that I was being abused. Men, as you point out in your “boys suppress it” post, put up with it and they “take it like a man”. After I realised what was going on, speaking about it was the only thing I could do to get some relief. I did try to plead with her to consider the consequences of her actions, but there was no changing her. I don’t feel any shame about it, I have moved on. I wish to only state one thing that I think is important: When a man abuses a woman its nearly always physical rather than mental. This is detrimental to body and mind, for the mind suffers as a result of the physical pain and violation as well as the feeling of worthlessness caused by the actions of the assailant. When a woman abuses a man its nearly always mental rather than physical. Persistence is key in this behaviour, a sense of extortion on issues of control, psychological extortion, making the other person feel totally useless and unworthy. The effects are detrimental to the mind and the body, because the mind starts to develop reflexes that destroy proper function in society and can lead to eating disorder, bad habits and simply a state of physical withering created by the lack of motivation. If it leads someone to severe depression, the edge of murder or suicide (you never know which will come first if not both), it is an extreme case. I think it happens more often than we think, but we “take it like a man”.


I feel that all this abuse that occurs from both genders is a result of many things lost in society today… our true sense of identity and the true source of our self worth. The assailant in reality is the one who is weaker and wishes to gain strength from the victim by imposing their shortcomings to those who do not share the trait. I feel strongly that it is the assailant who needs the truest of help, not so much the victim. Don’t get me wrong, I believe that the victim needs psychological relief and healing from the attack, but the victim can in most cases return to some sort of normality. The person bringing the real problems, in need of the real psychological turn around is the assailant who doesn’t feel enough self esteem to try and earn what they want via an acceptable route and therefore they look for someone to weaken to their level and “feed” off. But, society does not tolerate them. This puts them in a vicious circle of being the ones that need the real help, but not the ones to receive it. And that’s where the victim gets trapped in the vicious circle. The victim, surely after sharing some kind of positive experience with the assailant and therefore feeling love and compassion, sees that the assailant is in pain and in fact is crying out for help and therefore tries to help them “get through it”. I believe that this is why women who are severely hurt by male assailants return. Its because we all know that there is zero tolerance or assistance for a rapist wife beater. And I know that this is a reason I stayed on with my ex wife as long as I did. Because, I believed that she just needed help. But, there was no one but me willing to help her and I was not someone who knew how to help her. And turning her in was no help. It wasn’t an issue of witnesses, I had several witnesses who had seen how she behaved. It was an issue of her being treated like a leper once the stigma would fall on her. In the long run, it is more difficult being the the abuser than being the abused. The abused, at least in our society, has options. the abuser does not.


You give me too much credit. I don’t have as much sympathy for my ex abuser as comes through perhaps in my last comment. For she took her revenge when I stopped it all, I assure you. I am simply stating something which I think is an oversight by everyone. Having been the victim, I know the answer to the questions: Why did you stay on so long? Why did you go back twice after you left? The answer is simple: The “victim” is usually the healthier individual and it is healthy to wish to stand by someone you love or have common interests with (such as a child). Its always the bully who is in pain and wishes others to share it with, not the victim. If the bully is relieved, there is no victim. I believe that bullying, abuse, rape, etc is something that can be foreseen in an individual. I, for one, have a keen eye these days for such traits in people. So, I pose a question: What if rather than demonising the abuser, certain mechanisms could be put into place to relieve the abuser from what is haunting them and leading them to the abuse? I’m not talking about precrime like in “Minority Report”, I’m talking about a movement that will give abusers a way out. Scaring the shit out of them with propaganda that demonises them only makes them more abusive: “I’m scared out of my mind so I’ll scare you out of yours to bring you to my level, so you can keep me company.” In effect, that is what abusers are thinking. And on sexual predators: “You hurt me by not wanting me, so I’ll hurt you by forcing you.” In child abuse: “I was scared as a child, so you should be too… its the way of things.” I believe that any form of abuse is the result of years of development and decay and it could be stopped at any moment, if people stop demonising “the dark side”. We quite often become what others expect us to. Someone can easily become the abuser. My ex wife was a victim of much domestic abuse while she lived with her parents. She expected me to become like that, but I grew up in an environment where violence was unthinkable, so I couldn’t. How easy though, would I become the abuser if I had grown up in an even mildly violent environment, because she expected me to be. And when I didn’t, she took on the role of violent abuser. How many times in her life could that haunting have been alleviated? But, were there options? Truly? All you hear is: “Abusers, beware. We will find you.”


There just isn’t enough understanding of how all this works…not because the data doesn’t exist, but because the victim’s rights take priority over the abuser’s. And that makes it worse for the victim as well, for the abuser is demonised for a small percentage of who they are, which makes the victim feel guilt… its such a mess…

How PIE gets a cut of public money (22.03.81)


Sunday People, 22nd March 1981


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‘A number of top public figures’ were protected from prosecution for child abuse images


Sunday People, 22nd March 1981

People220381aPeople220381bThe same issue of the Sunday People carried this editorial:

People220381The ‘Old Harrovian’ who ran the paedophile mailing list which included many prominent people is almost certainly John Risely-Prichard, who was exposed in 1994 by Roger Insall, one of the three journalists who wrote the 1981 article.

John Risely-Prichard John Risely-Prichard

The full 1994 article on John Risely-Prichard can be found here

On 22nd March 1981, the same day as the Sunday People reported that public figures had escaped prosecution, the News of the World revealed that the Scotland Yard investigation into the Paedophile Information Exchange did not even ask the Royal Mail for permission to examine the post office boxes of PIE members.


Paedophiles hadn’t always been protected from investigation and prosecution. A 1978 investigation which centred on a magazine called Mailbox Boys resulted in dozens of successful prosecutions. This was a mainly London-based network which…

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Geoff Baker on El Sistema: sexual and other abuse in an authoritarian, hierarchical, archaic music culture

I was privileged to chair an important paper by Dr Geoff Baker, Reader in Musicology and Ethnomusicology at Royal Holloway College, University of London, on Wednesday October 29th at my own institution, City University London. This was a penetrating and hard-hitting talk on the institution of El Sistema (Fundación del Estado para el Sistema Nacional de las Orquestas Juveniles e Infantiles de Venezuela, now renamed Fundacíon Musical Simón Bolívar), founded in 1975 in Venezuela by José Antonio Abreu, purportedly to provide access to musical education for impoverished children, and now a global organisation operative in 60 countries, with major branches in the US, UK and Portugal. Baker’s research, based upon fieldwork in Venezuela (consisting of observations, interviews and archival work), is some of the first to take a critical view of the institution (most other writing has simply reiterated the institution’s own propaganda in relatively unmediated form, a peril for musicology about which I wrote last year); he looked first at the dominant narratives presented by the acolytes, and set this against information about the political activities and machinations of Abreu, the founder, the relationship of the institution to banks and other financial institutions, its total adherence to some of the most authoritarian and cruel ‘disciplinary’ approaches to musical education rooted in nineteenth century Europe, the issues involved in holding a middle class European musical model up as the root to salvation (little Venezuelan or other South American music is played by El Sistema), and the ultra hierarchical structures the organisation embodies and perpetuates. Furthermore, he questioned the basis upon which the organisation’s claims to be helping poor children, drawing attention instead to the predominantly middle-class make-up of the institution and its showcase ensemble, the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra, not to mention the rise of the leading conductor Gustavo Dudamel (b. 1981) at the behest of a socialist government, so that he could become the face of a Rolex watch advertising campaign.  Baker’s book El Sistema: Orchestrating Venezuela’s Youth (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014) has just been released in the US and will be released in the UK in January; he has also maintained an extensive blog on El Sistema for a while.

Earlier this week, Baker published a short article in The Guardian arguing cogently some of the above points (Geoff Baker, ‘El Sistema: A Model of Tyranny?’, The Guardian, November 11th, 2014) which brought of his research and conclusions to a wider audience for the first time. This immediately brought a great many reactions, many of them – by those emotionally or otherwise wedded to El Sistema – quite negative, which have been collected in various places (see Hannah Ellis-Petersen, ‘Venezuela’s El Sistema music scheme is ‘model of tyranny’, UK academic says’, The Guardian, November 11th, 2014; Norman Lebrecht, ‘Exposing the Underside of El Sistema’s Musical Revolution’, Slipped Disc, November 12th, 2014; ‘”El Sistema”: un modèle de tyrannie?’ France Musique, November 13th, 2014; ‘Gustavo Dudamel: “Estoy en evolucíon permanente”‘, El Universal, November 13th, 2014 ; ‘El Sistema se defiende ante acusaciones’, Ultimas Noticias, November 13th, 2014 ‘Sistema de Orquestas prepara una generacion avasallante. El director Dietrich Paredes revela que viene un lote de orquestas’, El Universal, November 14th, 2014Phil Miller, ‘Academic makes a noise over tuition row’, Herald Scotland, November 15th, 2014 ). Baker has himself posted some other responses on the blog.

I am expecting to receive my own copy of Orchestrating Venezuela’s Youth on Monday, so have not yet been able to read it in full. I write as one deeply sceptical about some branches of ethnomusicology, especially some of them involved with the study of institutions. Much research depending heavily upon results gathered through fieldwork, where sources remain anonymous, requires a good deal of faith on the part of the reader that the researcher is giving a fair representation, when it is difficult to test this against data. Having heard Baker’s paper and read his articles and blog, as well as having had quite extensive correspondence and exchanges with him over these subjects over an extended period, it is clear to me that this important research is poles apart from some of the hack work in this field of which I would be most critical (as with the lack of context, knowledge of or interest in the area of activity, or musical engagement, of Georgina Born’s study of IRCAM or Hettie Malcolmson’s study of the BMIC New Voices scheme, amongst the poorest examples of the genre, or the pedestrian work of Kay Kaufman Shelamay on the Boston Early Music Movement, spending a good deal of time only to discover very elementary results). Baker’s work appears not to be about proving a polemical point with respect to a singular methodology to the exclusion of all others, nor a self-aggrandising assertion of the domination and superiority of the author over their subject in the manner of Born, but a piece of work far from easy to have undertaken, resulting from a process of research which led the author to seriously rethink his earlier benevolent or at least benign assumptions. This is not to say that I am unlikely to have some criticisms of the final work – in the below, for example, the conclusions (which may be quite tautological, as some of the authors, wishing to deny the validity of any sexual dimension to power, would define a sexual encounter involving a power imbalance – true of the vast majority of all possible encounters – as exploitative) cited of Catherine Donovan, Liz Kelly and others could do with more critical treatment rather than simply the ‘We know, because of…..’ approach to argument.

Nonetheless, this work is naturally of great interest to me as one involved in research into the nineteenth-century symphony orchestra and all its associated structures and ideologies, the history of musical education, and above all the potential for abuse in the latter. Baker is acute on locating specifically sexual abuse within the wider culture of the institution, about which I will write more on a later date. With this in mind, I am able for the first time to give a preview of some of the material (not mentioned in the City presentation but alluded to in the Guardian article) by Baker on sexual abuse within El Sistema. This is disturbing material which requires extensive investigation immediately, and in which I hope some journalists will take a wider interest.


Many stories that circulated privately concerned sex. This is hardly surprising given El Sistema’s age profile and orchestras’ reputation. Seminarios, which see large numbers of teenagers and young adults sent off on long residential courses, are notorious, and the reports that emerge sit uneasily with Abreu’s austere, moralistic discourse.

Less predictable and more problematic than the frequent tales of promiscuity and infidelity was the relative normality of sexual relationships between teachers and pupils. On my first day in the Veracruz núcleo I had lunch with a teacher and his rather young-looking pupil/girlfriend; the next time I saw her she was wearing her school uniform. Rodolfo, a longtime Sistema musician, described a culture of permissiveness at all levels of the organization. He reported three cases of teachers being caught having sex with pupils in teaching rooms at a Sistema institution. He described this scenario as an institutional rather than individual problem, the result of a culture of turning a blind eye.

Eva, another Sistema musician, felt that there was a widespread problem around sex. She named five prominent Sistema teachers who were alleged to have a particular inclination toward their female pupils. One Veracruz teacher was renowned for working his way through female students during seminarios. Two núcleo directors had dated school-age members of their orchestras.

Relationships between teachers and pupils (some under eighteen) are conducted openly; they are not even viewed askance, much less the object of sanctions. This may be a consequence of blurring the line between youth and adult orchestras. Yet Eva was concerned that such relationships were clouded by institutionalized imbalances of power: students’ career prospects are often in the hands of their teachers and directors, putting pressure on students to accept invitations or advances. Eva spoke from experience, having dated a teacher herself while a student.

The age of consent in Venezuela is sixteen, making most such relationships legal, but they would be illegal in some of the countries where El Sistema has been lauded and copied, and would be banned, taboo, or at least contentious in most countries because of the institutional connection and power imbalance between the parties. Sexual relations between teachers and students aged under eighteen have been illegal in the United Kingdom since 2001. Some music education institutions prohibit sexual relationships between faculty and students of whatever age, and the composer Michael Berkeley proposed a blanket ban on such relationships within U.K. music institutions (Higgins 2013).

Eva also reported an incident of group sex at a seminario, involving both teachers and students. Those responsible were caught and thrown out of the seminario, but they went back to their núcleos and carried on playing in their local orchestra and giving lessons to children. There are no criminal record checks on teachers, she claimed, and most sexual misdemeanors are brushed under the carpet.

Most disturbingly, a number of allegations of sexual abuse surfaced in my interviews. Two former Sistema students claimed to have been victims themselves, while a number of prominent individuals—including three founders, a senior journalist, and an institutional head—stated that they knew victims or had strong suspicions of abuse. Two teachers and two former students made similar claims. Several older musicians had heard rumors of abuse involving figures of authority, though most claimed to be unsure about their accuracy. One prominent Venezuelan musician said about allegations of sexual abuse: “I know some very serious individuals who claim this with certainty.” He went on, however: “It is something so horrendous that I prefer to forget about it.”

One ex-Sistema musician described the program as “like a chain of secrets and favors—like a secret society.” She claimed that stories of sexual abuse were widespread and that other young musicians regarded the trading of sexual favors as an unremarkable, even humorous, subculture within the orchestra. She mentioned so-called niños bonitos (pretty boys) appearing with brand-new, expensive instruments: “you think, there’s something more going on there than just talent.”

One established musician with whom I discussed these issues emailed me a few days later: “Now that we are on this strange aspect of our subject matter, I am getting commentaries from almost everyone I talk to, with exactly the same script. Molesting attempts, then departed from Sistema, kept the secret for years.” Four current or former Sistema musicians made allegations about the covering up of cases of sexual abuse. “These kinds of issues have always been managed with impressive stealth,” confided a founder. “It’s really difficult to prove the things that have happened because the network of complicity is very extensive.” He named several of his contemporaries, now senior figures in El Sistema: “Among ourselves, when we were adolescents, I heard comments from them that suggest that some things happened that were at the very least incorrect.”

There is no concrete evidence that these allegations or suspicions are true, for all that many come from seemingly reliable sources. It was impossible for me, a foreign musicologist, to assess their veracity, particularly since many related to events that had allegedly taken place years or decades earlier; but the regularity with which they surfaced in interviews, conversations, and Internet forums was striking. Whatever the reality, stories of sexual abuse circulate in and around El Sistema and form part of its belief system.

Nevertheless, my informants were unaware of any significant action being taken as a result. Allsup and Shieh (2012, 48) write: “At the heart of teaching others is the moral imperative to care. It is the imperative to perceive and act, and not look away.” The starting point for social justice is noticing and responding to injustice, they argue. Such attitudes seem to have been somewhat thin on the ground in El Sistema. Yet they would appear to be vital to a project that claims to connect disadvantaged young people and classical music, since it could be argued that the kinds of practices and relationships commonly found in classical music education create the perfect conditions for sexual abuse—a point raised repeatedly during a scandal that erupted recently around U.K. music schools and colleges.


In 2013 thirty-nine current and former teachers at Chetham’s School of Music and the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) were investigated for alleged sexual abuse of pupils, with several other specialist music institutions also implicated (Pidd 2013). As former students began to speak out, it became increasingly clear that the problem had been endemic, especially in the 1970s and 1980s, though allegations spanned four decades. Former Chetham’s pupil Ian Pace (2013) was among those calling for a full public inquiry given the number of stories circulating in the music profession yet the reluctance of victims to come forward “in a close-knit world of classical music in which careers are dependent upon the whims of a few powerful individuals.”1

William Osborne, in a comment posted to Slipped Disc on February 17, 2013, pointed to the obstacles to uncovering this issue, helping to explain why decades may pass before such problems are properly investigated: “victims often do not find the understanding, confidence, and support to speak out until they are adults.” One obstacle is a lack of support structures; another is denial. In the words of Michal Kaznowski (2013), cellist of the Maggini Quartet and former pupil at the Yehudi Menuhin School: “if you had confronted me aged 15 and asked me about the school I would have told you it was a wonderful place with huge opportunity. [. . .] Almost nothing would have made me talk about the lessons and my humiliation and pain.” If many victims simply could not articulate their experiences, those few who did found their complaints were generally swept under the rug. Even when problems were common knowledge and reported, allegations were extremely hard to prove. It was thus very rare that anyone spelt out the problem in public or took significant action to confront it.

There is increasing recognition today not just that sexual abuse has been a widespread and longstanding problem within classical music educational insti- tutions, but also that there is a particular relationship between the abuse and the institutions. In other words, there is a systemic problem within classical music education, not simply a few rogue individuals or schools but a more generalized culture of abuse, manifested internationally. Tindall (2005) suggested that faculty-student sexual relations were part of the landscape of North American music schools in the 1970s and 1980s. Osborne provided a catalogue of more recent cases of sexual harassment and abuse from North American and European institutions and orchestras.2 Robert Fitzpatrick (2013), former dean of the Curtis Institute of Music, went much further, describing physical, psychological, and sexual abuse as endemic in European and North American conservatoires since the nineteenth century, yet, “[l]ike the Catholic Church, music schools tended to sweep their dirty little secrets under the rug. Students were never willing to discuss the improper actions of their instructors because of fear of reprisal that could sink their career as a performer.” Fitzpatrick’s own institution had been nicknamed the “Coitus Institute” in the 1930s. Among the soul searching, there were suggestions that abuse of one kind or another was an inherent feature of learning classical music.3

Several prominent musicians spoke out about the risks of intense, power- laden, one-to-one teacher-student relationships in hothouse musical environments. Vicci Wardman, a former teacher at the RNCM, described this relationship (Pidd, Ibbotson, and Carroll 2013): “Its very nature is intimate, detailed and precise, and most often conducted behind closed doors. [. . .] Tragically, that very structure can also be an invitation to the sort of predators who up to now have operated freely within musical institutions.” Martin Roscoe, another former RNCM teacher, identified classical music schools as high-risk places, pointing to the combination of one-on-one lessons, the idolization of top players, teenagers “with hormones going berserk,” and the music itself: “you are inevitably touching on the most passionate places of the soul with adolescents” (Higgins 2013b).

Researchers are beginning to respond to this issue and underline the need for serious examination. Gould (2009, 66) describes sexual harassment as “music education’s unspoken ‘dirty little secret,’” one that demands urgent attention. Bull (2012) confronts the “sexual economy” [that] shapes both the well-known phenomenon of sexual relationships between music teachers and students; and the now-emerging issue of child sexual exploitation and abuse that this relationship arguably facili- tates, with its privacy, intimacy and entrenched power imbalances. It is well established (e.g., by Catherine Donovan, Liz Kelly, and many others) that power imbalances (for example, age differences) between adults are a predictor for abusive or sexually exploitative relationships. I would argue that the combination in classical music pedagogy of intense musical experiences, intimate one-to-one lessons, and the authority of the teacher or conductor, is a perfect recipe in which sexual exploitation or abuse can occur, and so examining structures of power and authority in classical music institutions and practices is an urgent point of investigation.

Given the systemic nature of this problem, it is important to know what child protection measures El Sistema has in place. I could not make an official inquiry without jeopardizing my research, but Sistema musicians in Veracruz were unaware of any specific institutional measures. Many Sistema teachers receive little training of any kind, let alone child protection training targeted at preventing abuse. Nevertheless, there is a growing consensus that clear institutional strategies are essential to combating this problem, so establishing a rigorous and widely known child protection policy would surely be a wise move. Fitzpatrick (2013) gives a detailed list of suggestions for avoiding and dealing with cases of abuse, and in comments on his post, Osborne provides examples of programs and training that have been implemented in some European and North American institutions, such as clear sexual harassment policies, specifically assigned staff, and online reporting of complaints. Such developments reflect a shift in attitudes since the 1970s and 1980s—a shift that still seems to be waiting to happen in El Sistema.

The reports that I heard in Venezuela raised a number of fundamental issues. El Sistema’s disciplinary focus, production of power differences, male dominance, and opaque, autonomous institutional culture are ideologically problematic in themselves, but they also create the perfect conditions for abuse. The urgency of critiquing these dynamics is thus redoubled. As discussed in Chapter 3, progressive scholars of music education have been wary for some time about hallowed institutions such as specialist music schools, and their views have been borne out by recent events in the United Kingdom. Their argument that schools need to be put under the spotlight is irrefutable, and El Sistema is no exception, since reports of abuse (psychological as well as sexual) from Venezuela suggest that endemic, problematic features of classical music education are being reproduced rather than revolutionized in El Sistema.

The knottiest question of all, however, is whether intensive classical music education is the most suitable focus for a program centered on vulnerable children and youths. Power imbalances are at the core of sexual abuse, and they are as evident in El Sistema as in classical music institutions in other countries. Given the emerging evidence of an endemic culture of abuse in such institutions, putting vulnerable children in this situation looks like a high-risk strategy. Indeed, one ex-Sistema musician reported that his núcleo director tried to abuse him precisely when he, at that time a troubled adolescent with family and drug problems, went looking for help. Classical music education appears to be a problematic sphere, and adding at-risk youths may be creating a potentially volatile combination.

At present, the allegations and suspicions that circulate around El Sistema are no more than that. However, events in the United Kingdom illustrated that even world-renowned institutions had skeletons in their closets; that grave problems could take decades to become public knowledge; and that while these problems were discussed within musical circles, many students were nevertheless unaware of them. The fact that this problem has not emerged publicly in Venezuela does not therefore mean that it is insignificant there. Even stern, open critics of El Sistema told me that they would not touch the issue of sexual abuse, despite having heard about it, for the simple reason that conclusive evidence was too hard to come by. Also, the fear factor that Pace describes in the United Kingdom is even more pronounced in Venezuela: El Sistema’s dominance of the national classical music scene means that any public allegation would be tantamount to professional suicide. It may take careful research, then, to determine whether the silence hides personal troubles that ought to be turned into a public issue.

A Fortnight in the Life of the Overarching Child Sexual Abuse Inquiry. Where now?

An extremely comprehensive account of the last two weeks – essential reading.

cathy fox blog on child abuse

[If this message is here, I am still tinkering with a few links and corrections]

Much has happened in the last fortnight :

1. 2014 31 Oct Fri am First Meeting of survivors with the Home Office Secretariat

2. 2014 Oct 31 Fri pm The official resignation of the Chair,  Fiona Woolf

3. 2014 Nov 3 Mon. Statement by Fiona May in the House of Commons, reply by opposition and then questions.

4. Ian Mcfayens group, who are bringing the Judicial Review, including Andi Lavery and David Berrows Solicitor, and some others meet with Keith Vaz and Home Office Select Committee @CommonsHomeAffairs

5. 2014 Nov 7 Second meeting of survivors and representatives with Home Office Secretariat and panel members.

6. 2014 Nov 11 Home Affairs Select Committee with Peter Saunders, Alison Millar and Hilary Willmer

There is a need to review all that went on – with the appointment of…

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Students taking A and AS-Level Music – declining numbers

I would like to express immense thanks to my City University colleague Diana Salazar for compiling some of the figures below and drawing my attention to their sources.

The following tables provide figures for students taking A- and AS-Levels in Music, Music Technology, and proportions gaining particular grades, in the UK from 2009 to 2014. These are derived from several sources: this set of tables collated from the figures provided by the Joint Council for Qualifications, which however combine A and AS-Levels in Music and Music Technology into a single figure. Separation of numbers is enabled by subtraction of figures for Music Technology found at Edexcel, the only board to provide this subject.

There has thus been a 16.8% drop in A-Level Music applicants over this five-year period, a 25.6% drop in A-Level Music Technology applicants, and a net drop of 19.7%. The corresponding figures for AS-Level applicants are 8.0%, 13.1% and 9.7%; slightly less drastic but still very significant. There is a clear decline in the numbers of students taking these subjects, which has major implications in terms of future applicants to music degree courses. Unless this pattern changes, those degree courses requiring an A-Level in one or other of these subjects are certain to see a reductions in numbers.

The Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, earlier this week made a speech in which she urged young people to concentrate at school on taking STEM subjects rather than the arts and humanities , because of alleged lack of resulting employability (she does not appear to have read articles such as this which stress how employable music graduates are). This decline in those studying in music should, alas, warm Morgan’s heart.

A2 Music
A*-U totals
A2 Music
A2 Music, % of total A2 entries
A2 Music Technology
A*-U totals
A2 Music Technology
A2 Music Tech, % of total A2 entries




AS Music
A*-U totals

AS Music

AS Music, % of total A2 entries

AS Music Technology
A*-U totals

AS Music Technology

AS Music Tech, % of total AS entries


Strange Days: How paedophile pressure groups were allowed to lobby and infiltrate the Home Office

This is a very important piece, based upon extensive archival research. There is much more to come out on these subjects, difficult though it will be to handle for some – there is little doubt that the infiltration of gay rights’ and lobbying organisations by paedophiles in the 1970s was quite comprehensive.


Strange Days (published with many thanks to the author who wishes to remain anonymous)

As we await publication of the Wanless/Whittam review, here are some brief sentences on the strange atmosphere that allowed groups calling for the decriminalization of paedophilia to lobby and infiltrate the Home Office.

It was an era of turbulence and change. Things now illegal had yet to be so defined; and things then illegal had not yet been repealed. Laws and ideas relating to sex were bitterly fought over. Many paedophiles felt emboldened in such an atmosphere and thought their moment had come.

Their lobby, presented as part of broader liberation movements, was said to stand for modernity and common sense. This actually convinced some people. One editor of Gay News claimed that: “We were fighting against a lot of outmoded laws, and perhaps the ones against paedophilia were as outmoded as those against homosexuality or…

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Errors and Omissions in the Wanless/Whittam Report


I’ve been made aware of several errors and omissions in the Wanless/Whittam report. Many of them are related to the search terms that were used. The search terms list Charles Napier aka Roger Nash, but Roger Nash was actually the alias of Peter Bremner, who was another member of the Paedophile Information Exchange’s executive committee. See evidence of Bremner using the alias Roger Nash from the Guardian articles reproduced below.

Extract from Peter Wanless/Richard Whittam Review, Annex D nash The Guardian, 14th November 1984 Times141184The Guardian, 19th November 1984 G191184 Sticking with the search terms, there are a number of other serious errors and omissions:

– Warren Middleton was also known as John Parratt, so any documents that made references to Parratt will not have been found by Wanless/Whittam. (Source: Guardian 15.07.11)

– Steven Adrian Smith also used the names Steven Adrian and Steven Freeman. (Source: Guardian 15.07.11)

– Peter Bremner’s…

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More pro-child sexual abuse propaganda from Germaine Greer

In an earlier post I drew attention to the justifications for sexual abuse of children provided by Germaine Greer, in particular in the case of Helen Goddard, convicted abuser who taught at City of London School for Girls. I have just come across a quote from considerably earlier, from a 33-year old Greer. Clearly this type of view has been consistent throughout her career; I believe all of her writings and work in other media should be more closely scrutinised in light of this.

One woman I know enjoyed sex with an uncle all through her childhood, and never realized that anything unusual was toward until she went away to school. What disturbed her then was not what her uncle had done but the attitude of her teachers and the school psychiatrist. They assumed that she must have been traumatized and disgusted and therefore in need of very special help. In order to capitulate to their expectations, she began to fake symptoms that she did not feel, until at length she began to feel truly guilty about not having been guilty. She ended up judging herself very harshly for this innate lechery.

Germaine Greer, ‘Seduction is a Four-Letter Word’, Playboy (January 1972), p. 82, cited in Richard Parson, Birthrights (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1974), p. 151.

It is not surprising that Tom O’Carroll, former chair of the Paedophile Information Exchange, should have been so enamoured of Greer (see his comments on her in ‘Is PIE Sexist?’, Magpie 12 (December 1978)) , and continued to enthusiastically report her support for Harriet Harman and NCCL this year; according to O’Carroll Greer argued on Any Questions? ‘that the age of consent issue was not just about paedophiles but about young people’s right to a sexual life, which was why she and others had supported changing the law’.

Michelle Elliott, researcher into sexual abuse committed by women, in the interview below (from about 9’25”) quotes Greer’s comment to her ‘Well, if it is a woman having sex with a young teenage boy, i.e. 13 or 14-year-old, and he gets an erection, then clearly it’s his responsibility’.

John Mann MP BBC Radio 4 Today 7th Nov14


John Mann MP talking to John Humphrys on BBC Radio 4 Today 7th Nov14. He talks about the Wanless Home Office Review into the missing Dickens dossier. He also mentions the Barbara Castle files, the journalist Don Hale, and the role of the Intelligence Services.

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