Have you seen the film Spotlight?
“Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we spend most of our time stumbling around the dark. Suddenly, a light gets turned on and there’s a fair share of blame to go around. I can’t speak to what happened before I arrived, but all of you have done some very good reporting here. Reporting that I believe is going to have an immediate and considerable impact on our readers. For me, this kind of story is why we do this“. (Spotlight, 2015)
It’s one of those films that everyone should see.
It’s powerful, and poignant, and reminds us all that we are only human. And with that we are fallible. And with that we have a responsibility to other people who we live beside. Even if we are in a different layer/corner of society your paths do cross if you choose to notice – Siobhan Sheridan illustrates this here.
A year ago this week a 13 year old girl was found hanging in some bushes a few streets away from her family home. Close to houses on an estate. 10 miles away from where I live. I’m not one to get upset about the tragedy of other people in the news. I’m not fazed when we lose a celebrity and I can easily detach myself from a reality that isn’t mine. This time though, I sobbed. I knew we had let her down.
The media story told us she had been missing for 3 days after running away from home, following an argument with her parents (Mum and Step-Dad). For those 3 days they were in the news daily – pleading and begging for her safe return. He was particularly moved and emotional on camera, and the community they’d recently moved to live within came out in force to search the streets (just not thoroughly enough).
As soon as her face appeared in the local news as ‘missing school girl’ her last name caught my attention. For me, immediately there was more to this story than suicide. I felt nauseous. This wasn’t flippant arm-chair-psych accusation. Her step-dad is my step-cousin.
My childhood was wonderful, and I used to love spending time my 3 step-cousins. We always had adventures. That makes it sound like Enid Blyton. It wasn’t. We lived in a village, they lived in a town – it was much more fun! By adventures read: played out all day and returned later than we should.
I had always known something wasn’t quite as right or as good for them. Either my Mum shared concerns with us and gave us warnings about keeping safe, or I overheard too much adult conversation.
We’re the same age, and we ended up in the same secondary school. We became close, although he was someone it was increasingly hard to be close to. He had a troubled time at school and I was often called out of my lesson to help calm him. He was ‘popular’ but maybe for the wrong reasons, he was often fighting. He trusted me.
And now whilst writing I’m searching my memory for anything he disclosed that I could have told someone else. I wonder if I would have done anyway, and if he’d have wanted me to. Maybe this is my adult, safeguarding-trained, experienced YP practitioner mind at work. (I’ve deleted the red flags that my fingers were itching to record next to each of the paragraphs above like a risk assessment check-list). When do we stop asking questions that can’t be answered? We let him down.
Later on after various incidents, the kind where you tire of your friend taking advantage of your kindness or generosity for example, time and life meant we drifted apart. Only to be reunited if we were out in town at the same time and literally bumped into each other.
Later on I read that he was in court, for enduring cruelty to animals. Later on still I read that he was in prison for fraud. And then out. We were friends on Facebook. Last year I read his Step-Daughter had suicided after going missing for 3 days.
It went quiet. Then this week I read that the ‘Serious Case Review’ is almost ready to be published. A Serious Case Review “takes place after a child dies or is seriously injured and abuse or neglect is thought to be involved” (NSPCC)
“It takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one” (Spotlight, 2015)