Enough is enough!
Written By Sarah Waters (Psychotherapist and Certified DDP Practitioner) & Sue Parker Hall (Transactional Analyst Psychotherapist and author of Anger, Rage and Relationship).
Sarah is highly experienced in working with the effects of abuse, neglect, and childhood trauma. She specialises in the family therapy and parenting model, Dyadic Developmental Practice. Sue has many years’ experience of working with adults and young people’s trauma, including supervising young people’s substance misuse, affected others and self-harm project workers. Both Sarah and Sue are members of HART.
Assaults on our young people’s physical, sexual and mental health seem to have no boundaries in the post-covid era. It’s an unchallenged free-for-all which is breathtaking in its boldness.
The myriad of harmful phenomena includes graphic and age-inappropriate sex education, gender identity confusion, under-researched and addictive vapes, doomsday climate change propaganda, phones that enable pornographic addiction and self-esteem wrecking social media. All are escalating at a time when the young are extremely vulnerable and in need of adults’ protection, rather than neglect, exploitation or other forms of abuse. The final nail in the coffin is the recent audio recording of a teacher calling a teenager ‘despicable’ for refusing to respect a classmate’s decision to identify as a cat.
Enough is Enough
Our children and young people (CYP) have been traumatised, neglected, experimented upon, and psychologically harmed since March 2020. They have been expected to re-enter society without any additional support, explanation, apology or recognition that trauma has taken place. Several articles written by Sarah Waters since 2021 (1,2,3,4) have articulated this grievous lack of safeguarding, breakdown in elders’ human morality and loss of courage and heart to protect this vulnerable population.
A few disturbing facts from the past 3 years include:
- In the Philippines, children between the age of 5 and 15 were not allowed to leave their houses for over a year, let alone go to school. Those that broke the curfew were subjected to cruel and degrading treatment with some locked in dog cages as punishment.
- In the UK, just under 2 million pupils (one in four of all school children) – are now classified as ‘persistently absent’ – that is double the pre-pandemic levels. It’s no surprise that the most vulnerable are more likely to be part of this statistic.
- In the UK, 100,000 kids have entirely disappeared from education since schools reopened in 2021 – the vast majority of whom, yet again, are the most deprived and vulnerable.
In addition to the multiple traumas caused to CYP by society’s fear driven reaction to Covid-19, they are now being influenced, exploited, and manipulated in a radically ‘progressive’ culture. Ruthless big tech companies, teachers with a left-wing ideological agenda, sexual predators, climate change fear propagators and consumer-driven e-cigarette brands have all set their sights on our precious children.
It is as if society has forgotten all the extensive knowledge about child development and trauma that has been painstakingly gathered over the last 100 years. Equally it seems as though common sense and intuition are no longer of any value or are ignored and buried for fear of speaking up or standing out from the crowd. Astoundingly, the vast majority of high-profile psychological experts who are leaders in this field, continue to remain silent in the face of these relentless attacks.
And what about parents? Where are they in all of this? Sarah’s last article highlighted the urgent need for us to protect our young, as those whom we trust to look out for them are colluding in this harmful dynamic or idly standing by. It is heartening to hear of those that are bravely speaking out but it is simply not enough. Where is the concern? Where is the outrage? Where are the adults standing up in their full power to protect their offspring from this insanity?
In the first instance schools have become very unsafe places for our children. Who is giving teachers the authority to lead their pupils into the uncharted, non-evidence-based waters of ‘sex positivity’ and gender ideology? UNESCO is the UN specialised agency for education, entrusted to lead and set the guidelines for a whole school, community, country and worldwide Education 2030 Agenda, known as CSE (Comprehensive Sexuality Education). However, Europe has its own Standards for Sexuality Education (2010), under the direction of the WHO, in which it issues guidelines for differing age groups starting at age 0-4. Within this age category it advises that information is given out about ‘discovery of own body and genitals’7 (p38) and at age 4-6 ‘enjoyment and pleasure when touching one’s own body; early childhood masturbation’7 (p40). This surely begs the question as to why it is deemed appropriate for teachers to encourage 0–6-year-olds to discover, enjoy and gain pleasure from their genitals?
The previous guidance in the UK, dating back to 2000, stated that ‘the promotion of sexual orientation or sexual activity was inappropriate teaching’; however, the new guidance from the DFE (2019) states that ‘all of the compulsory subject content must be age and developmentally appropriate’ specifying that ‘gender identity’ should be taught in an ‘age appropriate and inclusive way’. This more expansive guidance has paved the way for a free-for-all when it comes to Relationships and Sex Education (RSE); accounts of shocking experiences around the country were recently highlighted on Jeremy Vine’s BBC radio show (no longer available) with some parents reporting that their children were being taught that there are 72 genders, were shown images of graphic oral sex and given instructions in how to choke a partner safely.
This again begs the question as to why aren’t more of the adults questioning this dark, clearly adult, material? The New Social Covenant Unit, a think tank MP Miriam Coates co-founded in 2022, is preparing to publish a study which states, ‘the nation’s children are being put at risk’ by teachers with ‘a radical ideological position on sex, gender and sexuality’ who are ‘monopolising the RSE sector in the UK’. Let’s hope this monopolisation is halted in its tracks before many more young people become indoctrinated into, and confused by, this age-inappropriate curriculum of ‘sex positivity’ and gender ideology.
One popular RSE resource provider in the UK is Pop ‘n’ Olly, a company which provides educational resources for primary schools. Their book (designed for 9-year-olds and upwards), ‘What does LGBT+ mean?’, explores ‘identity, assigned sex, gender, love, sexuality, discrimination, privilege, allyship, pride and more’. MP Nick Fletcher has warned the PM that schools are spending money on private organisations ‘that are educating our boys and girls that they may not have been born into the right body or have an inner gender identity’. The idea of more than two genders and even up to 100+ genders has no evidence base. Arguably, there has been a linguistic coup. The word ‘sex’ (in the sense of a biological sex) has been replaced with the word ‘gender’. While a person’s biological sex cannot be disputed because of the presence of XX chromosomes (female) and XY chromosomes (male), if it is named ‘gender’ (a sociological term related to identity) instead, it can then rightfully be said to be socially constructed. It can also then be fluid, with as many variations as society and the imagination allows. Similarly, this possibility is furthered by replacing the word ‘body’, a biological concept, with the word ‘identity’, a psychological/sociological concept.
If the concepts of ‘body’ and ‘sex’ had not been supplanted by the concepts of ‘identity’ and ‘gender’, the issues of body dysphoria (difficulty in accepting embodiment), or gender dysphoria (unease about experiencing a mismatch between biological sex and gender identity), in a non-ideological milieu would have been recognised as trauma symptoms. They also, in the first instance, would have been understood as a psychological or emotional issue, not a medical one. Only if exhaustive psychotherapeutic interventions had not resolved these distressing symptoms would a medical intervention, in the form of puberty blockers and surgery be pursued. Gender ideology hijacks, and medically pathologises, a familiar developmental experience for some CYP. Instead of normalising the questioning of identity and sexual preferences and offering psychological support, practitioners under the influence of gender ideology offer a medical treatment plan.
Our young urgently need protecting from this ideology. A paper published in 2002 by David Freedman found that a quarter of young people referred to The Tavistock Clinic had spent time in care, almost 40% had families with existing mental health problems, and half had relationship difficulties with their peers. Freedman recently learnt that despite their clients’ vulnerability and potential high risk, The Tavistock Clinic database was not maintained, there were no follow ups, and information was not kept in an easily accessible format. This lack of safeguarding within an NHS setting is astounding and begs the questions “why wouldn’t more care be taken with this vulnerable population, why would such important information be so insignificant, why wasn’t this noticed and addressed in an audit if one ever existed?”. A further question may be “was the clinic attempting to obscure the extent of trauma present in this client group?”
One recent study noted that 48% of children and young people who were seen in GIDS (The Tavistock and Portman NHS Foundation’s Gender Identity Development Service) and whose parents completed the Social Responsiveness Scale (a quantitative measure of autistic behaviours in children and young people) scored in the mild to severe range. Also, a recent BMJ paper reported that around 35% of referred young people [i.e., referred to the GIDS] present with moderate to severe autistic traits. Those on the autism spectrum have additional vulnerabilities, and need additional protection. A heartbroken father recently took legal action against the NHS to try to stop surgeons performing sex-change surgery on his vulnerable autistic son (now 21) who had told an NHS mental health practitioner he was trans when he was 13. The father accuses the organisation of failing to put safeguards in place for the disproportionate number of young people who believe they are trans and who are on the autism spectrum; he adds that mental health issues, bullying, anxiety and the impact of autism were never properly explored by NHS medics.
What is also worrying for psychological therapists who work with young people is that while there was no significant evidence that they were engaging in so called ‘conversion therapy’, 25 health and psychological organisations signed a joint document released by the Dept for Health (2015) called The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU), which aims to end the practice. Originally, conversion therapy related to a form of practice which assumes that certain sexual orientations are inferior to others, and therefore seeks to change or suppress them on that basis. In 2017 the MoU was updated to include gender identity.
The suggested best practice for therapeutic work with LGBT client populations is one of positive affirmation, an attitude that therapists aspire to in all their client work and indeed was already enshrined in ethical frameworks. However, the purely positive affirmation approach, which is clearly implicit within the MOU, strongly discourages the fundamental therapy function of exploration. Many young people have presented at the (GIDS) with gender dysphoria, ‘a marked incongruence between one’s experienced/expressed gender and natal gender of at least 6 months duration…..a condition associated with clinically significant distress‘ (DSM-V). CYP presenting with this issue typically report feeling that they inhabit the wrong body. A purely positively affirming approach necessitates the practitioner to take this statement at face value and to steer clear of exploring any trauma or other influences that may have contributed to their confusion. Because of this, and prior to the NHS stopping routine use of puberty blockers this year, for those under 16 years of age (except for in a research programme planned for 2024) many young patients were fast tracked to experimental, non-reversible medical interventions in terms of puberty blockers and/or surgery rather than any significant psychological exploration or processing.
There are further concerns about how competent these young patients are to make such major life changing decisions especially, as most experts agree, the brain is not fully developed until age 25 years. A further concern is about how well informed they are; are they told, for example that treatments are experimental, there are no long term research studies with regard to safety or other outcomes, many young people with gender dysphoria later realise they are
All the concerns outlined in this paper are amplified by the fact that most young people now have smart phones, which can hasten and magnify the promotion and glamourisation of any topic. UsForThem (formed in May 2020 by volunteers to stand up for children’s interests during the pandemic) have launched a SafeScreensforTeens campaign and are raising awareness of the growing body of evidence that suggests that smart phones are not just distracting, but are highly addictive, corrosive to mental health and self esteem, and pose potentially serious dangers for children in their deployment of sophisticated techniques to draw in, and captivate, attention.
The UK government estimates that online pornography is accessed by 1.4 million UK children each month. Further, the Children’s Commissioner, Rachel De Souza, said of a teenage focus group, ‘I was asking what they had seen online and two thirds of the room of 15 to 16-year-olds had seen images of a beheading’. In addition, there is a range of supporting evidence confirming that our children are commonly given such a device at around the age of 11 that is not only addictive, but is also exploitative, can foster isolation and loneliness, impair brain development and academic attainment, disrupt sleep patterns, lead to obesity, self-harm and suicide. Again, the question needs to be asked, whose agenda is this supporting?
Anxiety and distress are also being fostered in our young about alleged man-made climate change; they are being engaged in fear-mongering, with the idea being foisted upon them that they need to be involved in and responsible for preventing disaster for the planet. The idea of a global imperative to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide (a gas that is essential for photosynthesis without which plants could not grow) to Net Zero, has become a global compulsive pursuit. The Lancet (2021) carried out a survey of young people in 10 different countries collecting data on their thoughts and feelings about climate change and government response to it. They found that 59% were ‘very or extremely worried’, 84% ‘were at least moderately worried; 50% reported feeling sad, anxious, angry, powerless, helpless, and guilty; and 45% of respondents said that their negative feelings affected their daily life and functioning’. The Telegraph reported that some newspapers tell writers to avoid neutral phrases like ‘climate change’ and instead use more emotive terms such as ‘emergency’, ‘crisis’ or ‘breakdown’. This disingenuous play on words can instil terror in the population, a phenomenon that became very familiar during the Covid-19 event. The Governmental Nudge Unit fully acknowledge that ‘a fearful population is a pliable one’ and is far more amenable to adopting new suggested behaviours. They also use shame and peer pressure to increase compliance.
The final assault upon our children is a physical one; Britain has the highest level of teen vaping in Western Europe. E-cigarette companies market heavily, currently without restriction, to our CYP who are becoming a generation addicted to nicotine. Elf bars from China have been allowed to corner the market and around 2.5 million are now sold in the UK each week earning them £322.1 million in the process. Each contain 600 ‘puffs’ and, like most disposable vapes, roughly the amount of nicotine found in 40 cigarettes. ‘The impact on learning is catastrophic’ states an anonymous secondary school teacher; ‘students who were grade A now have a distinct lack of focus, which we believe is caused by becoming addicted to vaping. Some pupils are distracted and agitated if they can’t leave lessons to go to the toilet and get their fix’.
In conclusion, we stand at a crossroads in the protection of our children and young people. An insidious wave of exploitation, manipulation and neglect has crept into various aspects of their lives, from schools to personal spaces and in the world at large. It appears society has lost its moral compass, prioritising radical ideologies, commercial interests, and ulterior agendas over the safeguarding of our young ones’ physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. The silence of reputed experts, the complacency of some parents, and the inertia of institutions that should be protecting them, only serve to exacerbate this crisis.
From the issues of gender confusion and irreversible radical, non-evidence based medical treatments, exposure to graphic sexual content, the adverse psychological impact of isolation and the pressure to conform to radical societal narratives, to the physical health risks posed by addictive habits like smart phone screen time and vaping, our children are at risk in unprecedented ways. Meanwhile, the undermining of their innocence and childhood through harmful online habits, exploitation by big tech companies and climate anxiety, only compound these perils. The concern is further amplified by the fact that the most vulnerable amongst them, those with the trauma of adverse childhood experiences (ACE’s) or additional vulnerabilities such as autism, are not receiving the care and protection they urgently need.
Our society urgently needs a reboot. We need to awaken from our comfortable slumber and any naive belief that governments are here to protect us and our children. We need to develop our moral courage, recognise and take responsibility for the escalating harms being perpetrated on our young, and act decisively in their best interests; to champion the values of listening to our intuition, safeguarding, genuine empathy, respect for children’s innocence, and the celebration of childhood. Finally, we need to collectively challenge the harmful ideologies, practices and institutions that jeopardise our young ones’ safety and well-being. Any action that is taken to prevent a child’s trauma, or to support their recovery, is an investment in a healthier, more compassionate, and more human society in the future.
The time to act and speak out is now.