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When I first became a fan of Stephen Fry, I remember my outrage at reading about a phenomenon called “the meat rack”. It was a gathering of young boys in Piccadilly, aged 12 or possibly younger, selling sexual favours to older men in exchange for money or somewhere to sleep.
I found it shocking and unbelievable, where was the police? Child protection? Social services? Should they not be in school? The usual thoughts went through my head, before I reasoned them away as part of a
fictional novel, from Stephen’s vast imagination.
As a victim of severe child abuse myself, I was once invited to speak on various morning chat shows, including one hosted by the founder of Childline; Esther Rantzen.
Backstage, we had a very interesting conversation about child exploitation and the extent of it. I never quite understood her comment about her “hands being tied”, (as she was a BBC employee at the time), until the
Jimmy Savile scandal broke. Then her cryptic comments made far more sense…
Sadly, the “meat rack” was very real. I don’t know if it still exists, but in recent years there has finally been some progress made regarding the scandal of child exploitation, partly thanks to the concerted efforts of Jon Wedger, a former police superintendent turned avenger of historic and current child abuse. His bravery has been phenomenal in the face of threats against himself and his family, as he has uncovered evidence that links to people in the highest echelons of UK society.
Which brings me neatly to His Royal Heigness Prince Andrew. A recent poll indicated that Harry and Meghan are more disliked by the UK public for stepping away from the Royal family, than Prince Andrew is for allegedly taking sexual advantage of young women under the age of 16 provided for him by Jeffrey Epstein. If this is true, what does this say about our character as a race of human beings? What does this say about our priorities, our moral standards?
I have often thought about why I was treated with so much cruelty by the people entrusted with my care growing up. It was a lack of empathy on their part, a lack of compassion, a disregard for my emotional and mental, and physical wellbeing. What makes people behave that way? A flaw within their characters, a damaged perspective which can be explained by mental illness in my late father’s case, and autism spectrum disorder in my mother’s case.
This could also explain the motivation of people who allow their children to end up on the meat rack-a lack of morality, standards, a lack of desire to protect their children, who popped into their lives, unplanned, unwanted & unloved.
Wedger uncovered complicity within the police to cover up the child abuse crimes of the Prince Andrews and Edward Heaths of our society. That someone paid to uphold the law can be bought, at the expense of a child, speaks volumes about how far from being a “civilised society” we actually are, however much we delude ourselves.
Getting back to where we started; Stephen Fry. He looked at the faces of these young men on the “meat rack”, and said that it was an accident of birth that made them end up where they were. Had they been born into privilege they would be playing cricket or football, training for an engineering career or a law degree, or studying for a performing arts career.
It is random and accidental that you are handed the cards you get in life. And those who are privileged have no desire for greater equality. It is a wall we have been attempting to destroy since capitalism started. It remains thanks to our lack of compassion and awareness, and is as high as it has ever been.