I don't often write about the work I used to do: the challenges and heartaches of Child Protection. But I have been prompted to do so by the recent disclosures of abuse by hundreds of footballers.
We are, rightly, horrified. It is the only possible response to the realisation that all those children have trotted off to football every week, with their boots and their dreams of Wembley, have been exploited by men (almost always men) who used those children for their own gratification. How could this happen? How did we not know? How could nobody stop it?
To begin - I'm not surprised. All organisations - churches, residential schools, sports clubs - close ranks when they feel under attack. It takes extraordinary courage from whistleblowers to stand up and shout loud enough to be heard. We also know that offenders are adept at wheedling their way into any institution that gives them easy access to children. Not just one child - but scores of them.
Does this mean that most coaches are abusers? No, definitely not. What these men have done is unforgivable. But most men are decent, honest, and want only to support their own children. We must not react to this by pointing a finger at every man who supports his son or daughter by spending hours with them at a football club. Offenders must be identified and punished. But we must not conduct a witch-hunt that could catch the vast majority of kind, decent men who are doing their best for their kids.
And this is where the courage of those now speaking out comes in. At last there is a climate in which their voices can be heard. They have names, times, dates, and are pointing fingers. They deserve all our support. For in disclosing what has happened to them, they are provide the foundation which can ensure we keep all our children safer in the future.