Donald West is Emeritus Professor of Clinical Criminology at the University of Cambridge, and a former Director of the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge. (1)
Donald West will have exerted a considerable influence, not only on Criminology students at the University of Cambridge, but also on students from other universities who were exposed to his work. Criminology graduates often go on to careers in the police service, the probation service, and the social work profession, and some go on to work with cases involving child abuse. West’s published work in the field of criminology reveals some deeply disturbing views on child sexual abuse, especially considering his position of authority and influence.
Donald West wrote that child sexual abuse was sometimes “beneficial”, referred to child abusers as “lovers”, and referred to a child being abused by an adult as a “relationship”.
Admittedly, pedophiliac relationships do sometimes seem beneficial. A child may learn much from a consistent and caring adult lover and come to cherish him as a friend long after the period of erotic attachment has passed. (2)
He advises against “over-reacting” by contacting the police in cases of child sexual abuse, and warns that the effects of an investigation are “certainly worse than the effects, if any, of the sexual activity itself”.
They may come to feel guilty, perhaps because of the sordid or secretive circumstances of the affair, or from fear of the consequences of detection. This may in turn interfere with the development of relationships with peers. In the absence of reliable research information as to the extent and frequency of these complications, it is difficult to know what to advise when an actual or suspected pedophiliac relationship comes to the attention of a parent, teacher or other concerned individual. The usual tendency is to over-react. The effects of anxious probing by parents, followed by police interrogations, court proceedings and the possible imprisonment of someone to whom the child has become much attached, are certainly worse than the effects, if any, of the sexual activity itself. (3)
In fact, West is against the criminal prosecution of child sexual abuse no matter how young the victim, as long as the abuse is “consensual”, and voiced his agreement with the Dutch paedophile activist Edward Brongersma.
I happen to agree that the criminal prosecution of sexual acts is inappropriate, whatever the age of the participants. (4)
West reveals his attitude to abused children by using inverted commas around the word ‘victim’:
Case studies and surveys suggest that, in general, “victims” of pederasts do not become homosexual. (5)
He portrays child victims as instigating the abuse, referring to “casual sexual indulgence” and, in reference to a headmaster sexually abusing boys in his care, talks of the boys “light-heartedly taking advantage of the opportunities presented”.
More commonly, homosexual contacts wiith adults are a matter of rather casual sexual indulgence as far as the boys are concerned, an extension of the homosexual curiosity and eroticism that is, as Langfeldt points out, so commonplace among boys. Such was the case when a patient of mine was implicated in a public scandal. When inquiries were made it emerged that a high proportion of the boys at the school knew all about the sexual interests of their headmaster and one of his assistants and many of them had light-heartedly taken advantage of the opportunities presented. The one boy in the group who was really deeply involved in a pedophile relationship, to the extent of being taken on holiday by his lover and introduced as an adopted son, was the one who, perhaps wisely, steadfastly refused to admit any physical sex acts and so avoided having to give evidence in connection with the ensuing prosecution. (6)
He downplays the effects of institutional sexual abuse in children’s homes and schools, saying it was ‘unwise to overdramatize – many boys have not taken the behaviour at all seriously or felt the need to make an official complaint’ (7)
West repeatedly refers to child sexual abuse as being consensual.
Although sexual offences with children are predominantly non-violent and often in effect consensual… (8)
He claims that the majority of child sexual abuse is characterised by “affectionate playfulness and willing participation” and talks of a father abusing his child as being a “completely mutual relationship”.
Although most sexual contacts between adults and children are seemingly characterized by affectionate playfulness and willing participation, rather than by fear or coercion, the opposite extreme, however rare, cannot be forgotten. (9)
The kind of pedophiliac relationships that are prosecuted as incest range from completely mutual relationships through varying degrees of reluctant acquiescence… (10)
West praises and defends a notorious Australian child abuser called Clarence Osborne, and apportions responsibility to his child victims who “returned again and again” to their abuser.
Because he was so friendly, confident, persuasive, and not in the least coercive, literally thousands of boys responded to his overtures and many found the experiences sufficiently interesting and enjoyable to return again and again. Indeed, Osborne noted that if he wanted to discourage a boy from repeated visits all he had to do was discontinue their sex games…Osborne was lambasted in the press, labelled a monster and accused unjustly of seducing pre-pubertal children and leading boys into prostitution. In reality, his activities came closer to the Greek love ideal to which many pederasts claim to aspire, namely the befriending of a youth by a loving and understanding older man who acts as guide and patron and role model. (11)
As late as 1987, when more evidence had been published about the huge damage caused by child sexual abuse, West was still referring to child abusers as “child lovers”, described abuse as “mutually pleasurable experiences”, and talked of paedophiles seeking out “willing partners…much as ordinary lovers do”.
It has already been emphasised that the vast majoroty of men who are sexually attracted to children ae non-violent in their approaches. Signs of fear or annoyance on the child’s part would normally make them desist. After all, child lovers are seeking, however inapropriately, an affectionate response and a mutually pleasurable experience. Paedophiles often develop great sensitivity to children’s reactions and are able to select, much as ordinary lovers do, those who are likely to prove willing partners. (12)
West criticises the law for criminalising adults who engage in “consensual” child sexual abuse, and suggests that the law should be changed to fix an age below which it would be assumed the child did not consent – “unless the contrary could be proved”. It appears the age he had in mind was very low indeed, as he gives the examples of “very young infants, even babies” who would not be expected “to appreciate fully what is happening or to formulate a complaint”.
It is universally agreed that the criminal law should protect persons of all ages from unwanted sexual intrusion. Controversy arises over the criminalisation of consensual acts as “sexual assaults”. This creates a category of victimless crimes, justified on the grounds that children must be protected from giving way to their own sexual inclinations or from responding to the seductive approaches of others. Professor Brian Hogan (1978) identified the crucial issue when he questioned whether the basic assumption behind the existing law, namely that the young are harmed by sexual experience, can be proved. Libertarian principles suggest the abolition of a legal fiction of an age of consent and the introduction of a requirement to have a complaining victim before a criminal charge can be brought, Objections to this simple solution are substantial, if not completely convincing. Assaulted children are sometimes very young infants, even babies, and so not in a position to appreciate fully what is happening or to formulate a complaint. To meet this, the law could fix some age below which it would be assumed, unless the contrary could be proved, that the child did not consent. (13)
This is uncannily similar to the Paedophile Information Exchange’s 1975 submission to the Home Office Criminal Law Revision Committee.(14) The Paedophile Information Exchange campaigned for the age of consent to be reduced to 4 years old, and, like West, viewed children as ‘willing partners’ who could consent to sex with an adult.
Donald West helped Tom O’Carroll, the former chairman of the Paedophile Information Exchange, with his book, Paedophilia: The Radical Case, which set out to normalise child sexual abuse. O’Carroll gave West his “heartfelt thanks” in the introduction. (15)
The Paedophile Information Exchange set out their plans to make child sexual abuse ‘acceptable’ in the form of a list of aims. Number one on the list was “to clear away the myths connected with paedophilia by various means, including the making public of scientific, sociological and similar information”. They obviously realised the importance of influential academics such as Professor Donald West and Dr Ken Plummer “clearing away myths” surrounding child sexual abuse. (16)
In 2006 Tom O’Carroll was convicted for distributing a collection of 50,000 images and films of child abuse. He was arrested after undercover police infiltrated a group known as the International Paedophile Child Emancipation Group and its subsidiary, Gentlemen with an Interesting Name. “According to police O’Carroll saw the groups as a base for an “international secret society” of “academic” child abusers…Children, mainly boys and some as young as six, had been filmed and photographed being raped and tortured”. (17)
Unbelievably, Donald West continued his association with O’Carroll despite the latter’s conviction for distributing films of 6 year old boys being raped and tortured, and in 2011 helped promote O’Carroll’s book about ‘Michael Jackson’s love of boys’. “Donald West, emeritus professor of clinical criminology at Cambridge University, wrote that the author’s “vivid and insightful commentary is a joy to read” (18)
West used the ‘research’ of Peter Righton, who was later exposed as being a Paedophile Information Exchange member and being part of a network of paedophiles who abused boys in children’s homes and schools across the UK. West quotes Righton saying that “most” children benefit from being sexually abused: “men had shown a lasting devotion, boys expressed appreciation for the consideration and attention they had received which they rarely got in their own homes and most felt they benefited’. (19)
In University contracts there is usually a clause about ‘not bringing the University into any disrepute’. The University also has a duty of care to the students.
It is time that the University of Cambridge’s Vice Chancellor and Governors addressed these issues with Professor West who should surely be asked to apologise for the pro-paedophile views he expressed so forcefully in the above writings.
The essays quoted above iare dated and it’s possible that Professor West may have altered his views since then, as there is much more academic material available now, as well as many first hand accounts from survivors which explain the hugely damaging long term effects of child sexual abuse.
Questions for the Vice Chancellor of University of Cambridge
– Do you understand that Professor West’s views as expressed in the above texts could be said to bring the University into disrepute?
– If these same views have been presented to students at your University through Professor West’s teaching and writing, do you consider that this has demonstrated a breach of the University’s duty of care towards its students?
– Will you facilitate Professor West in making a formal apology to victims and survivors of child sexual crime for the views he expressed in his writings as cited above?
– Will you provide a statement that Professor West’s teaching, writing and research does not in any way currently promote pro-paedophile perspectives?
– I will publish the Vice Chancellor’s response on this website.
Questions for Professor Donald West
– Do you still hold the same views on paedophilia that are expressed in the essays quoted here?
– If you do still hold these views, does your teaching reflect these views?
– If your views have changed, have you written anything which clarifies your position? I’ll happily publish it on this website.
– If you do still hold these views, what do you say to child victims and survivors who may have been abused by those students influenced by your teachings? I’ll happily publish an apology on this website to the victims, survivors and students.
(2) p.255, Adult Sexual Interest in Children: Implications for Social Control, by D.J. West (Institute of Criminology, Cambridge, England), from Adult Sexual Interest in Children, edited by Mark Cook and Kevin Howells, Academic Press, 1981
(3) p.255-256, Adult Sexual Interest in Children: Implications for Social Control, by D.J. West (Institute of Criminology, Cambridge, England), from Adult Sexual Interest in Children, edited by Mark Cook and Kevin Howells, Academic Press, 1981
(4) Commentary by D.J. West to The Meaning of ‘Indecency’ with Respect to Moral Offences Involving Children, by Edward Brongersma, British Journal of Criminology, Vol. 20 No. 1 Jan. 1980
(5) p.256, Adult Sexual Interest in Children: Implications for Social Control, by D.J. West (Institute of Criminology, Cambridge, England), from Adult Sexual Interest in Children, edited by Mark Cook and Kevin Howells, Academic Press, 1981
(6) p.257, Adult Sexual Interest in Children: Implications for Social Control, by D.J. West (Institute of Criminology, Cambridge, England), from Adult Sexual Interest in Children, edited by Mark Cook and Kevin Howells, Academic Press, 1981
(7) p.123,Children’s Sexual Encounters with Adults: A Scientific Study by CK Li, DJ West & TP Woodhouse, Prometheus Books
(8) p.259, Adult Sexual Interest in Children: Implications for Social Control, by D.J. West (Institute of Criminology, Cambridge, England), from Adult Sexual Interest in Children, edited by Mark Cook and Kevin Howells, Academic Press, 1981
(9) p.261, Adult Sexual Interest in Children: Implications for Social Control, by D.J. West (Institute of Criminology, Cambridge, England), from Adult Sexual Interest in Children, edited by Mark Cook and Kevin Howells, Academic Press, 1981
(10) p.262, Adult Sexual Interest in Children: Implications for Social Control, by D.J. West (Institute of Criminology, Cambridge, England), from Adult Sexual Interest in Children, edited by Mark Cook and Kevin Howells, Academic Press, 1981
(11) p.62, Sexual Crimes and Confrontations, by D.J. West, Gower Publishing Company Limited, 1987
(12) p.58, Sexual Crimes and Confrontations, by D.J. West, Gower Publishing Company Limited, 1987
(13) p.266, Adult Sexual Interest in Children: Implications for Social Control, by D.J. West (Institute of Criminology, Cambridge, England), from Adult Sexual Interest in Children, edited by Mark Cook and Kevin Howells, Academic Press, 1981
(15) p.12, Paedophilia: The Radical Case by Tom O’Carroll, Peter Owen Limited, 1980
(16) p.209, Paedophilia: The Radical Case by Tom O’Carroll, Peter Owen Limited, 1980
(19) p.10, Children’s Sexual Encounters with Adults: A Scientific Study by CK Li, DJ West & TP Woodhouse, Prometheus Books