Tackling sexual abuse in the aid sector | Letters

Readers respond to a damning report by MPs accusing aid groups of ‘abject failure’ in tackling sexual abuse

The statement that charities have shown complacency verging on complicity in responding to sexual abuse across the sector mainly focuses on those delivering aid work overseas (Report, 31 July).

In my experience it is important to include some charities in the UK in this investigation because there are systemic failures with the very organisations that were set up to keep vulnerable people safe from harm. Austerity measures have led to a reduction in the numbers of trained staff monitoring safeguarding and child protection procedures at ground level because major funders have fewer peripatetic staff and staff within local authorities have been subjected to severe cuts: the government’s drive to privatise charities and local voluntary organisations has led to an increase of business people and profit-driven providers on charity boards. Many of these adults lack the qualifications and experience to investigate concerns about sexual abuse and exploitation and their concerns about reputational damage can override concern for the alleged victim: the current concerns about aid charities and sexual abuse and exploitation are only the tip of the iceberg and whistle blowers often end up victims of retaliatory behaviour themselves. Investigations are needed in the UK also.
Norma Hornby
Warrington, Cheshire

• The International Development Committee (IDC), the Guardian and many other organisations are justifiably angry about sexual abuse by aid workers. That there has been substantial exploitation over a long time is not in doubt. But aid organisations send abroad for extended periods thousands of young men and women, mostly single and sexually active. If we are ever to move beyond repeated cycles of retrospective, self-righteous indignation, then all parties involved (including the Guardian) must do what the latest IDC report conspicuously failed to do: define in advance what is acceptable sexual behaviour by aid workers. With whom. On what terms. For women and men. Singly and collectively.
Jack Winkler
London

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