Dawn is a 6-year-old girl who lives in a condemned high-rise block on Mandela Avenue. Mandela Avenue is on The Swamp Estate on the edge of Ruraltown. Dawn has no friends because she wets herself when the children sit on the floor for reading time at the local primary school. As a large warm pool of urine slowly grows larger around Dawn, the other children move quickly away.
Her garish coloured chiffon dress is covered in ribbons and lucky charms. Faded by her mother’s constant hand-washing after Dawn’s accidents, the dress is slowly losing it’s appeal. A teacher always rushes over to Dawn, scoops her up and carries her away to the bathroom. If a male of any age touches Dawn, she screams uncontrollably for up to five minutes and cannot be stopped, even by her favourite female Teaching Assistant.
I was speaking to one of our courageous midwives this week. She is monitoring Dawn’s sixth and newest sibling; an emaciated and filthy four-month-old baby named Bobby-Ray Jr. She had asked Dawn’s mother why Dawn wets herself and screams when a man touches her. It is because her father ‘interferes with her’ when he bothers to turn up drunk to steal the child benefit money. Dawn’s grandmother, a woman in her early 40′s with seven children of her own has something to say about this. From a cloud of cigarette smoke over in the corner she asks what does the midwife expect? Dawn’s mother is not a good wife to him, ‘if you get my meaning like’.
She justifies the rape of her own granddaughter by her son-in-law by blaming her daughter for not having more sex with him. Even for Ruraltown this is a new low. This is Jeremy Kyle right here on the street.
I check with the Child Protection DS. She tells me that Dawn and every single one of her siblings have been designated as a ‘Child In Need’. Apparently this attracts some level of what she calls ‘intervention’ by social services and our own team. I ask if Dawn’s mother’s ‘partner’ has been nicked for sexual assault. Which one? she asks. ‘Which partner?’. She has more than one? ‘Yes, she has three’. Do they all rape Dawn? ‘No. Only two of them rape Dawn’. Are they banged up? ‘No. CPS dropped both cases’.
The Child Protection DS tells me that these two men are brothers. They enjoy some kind on ‘entitlement’ to Dawn’s mother and to Dawn and her sisters because of some ‘deal’ their father did with Dawn’s grandfather a few years ago over some land. This deal was broken by Dawn’s grandfather and to avoid a feud, Dawn’s mother was ‘promised’ to the brothers. Dawn’s mother then injected a level of confusion and damaged pride into the equation by producing two mixed-race children. This was some kind of insult to the family who own her, and she had to be re-housed at public expense on two occasions. No charges were ever brought against any person.
The DS looks tired and a little too thin for a woman of her age. She kind of ‘stares through me’ like so many of her colleagues who work the Swamp tend to do. At twenty six she looks like a woman twice her age. I ask her about Dawn’s future. She has no idea. She and her team are losing two-thirds of the officers on the unit under the budget cuts. Dawn and her family will be ‘managed’ by local uniformed police after August.
The DS applied for her own job under the new system but was ‘unsuccessful on this occasion’ and is going to be a custody sergeant at Ruraltown Central. She doesn’t mind, she has clearly had enough. I ask her how many Dawns there are on the Swamp, she tells me there are more than fifty families ‘engaged’ with social services under child protection measures for neglect or abuse on that estate alone.
We stand in silence for a few minutes. I want to give them both a bit of a squeeze but that would be unprofessional. Besides, the midwife is going out with Debbie for a few drinks next week, she would be bound to grass me up and I don’t want Debbie to think I’ve gone soft or anything.
I promise to look into the father’s criminal conviction history but I already know what I will find. Meanwhile Dawn is still wetting herself and screaming if any male of any age touches her. The suburban kids with biblical names in her class like to test this reaction every day or so.
This is my world as a policeman in Ruraltown. Not Champneys, phone hacking or senior officers and their ‘milestones’.
Gadget Note: Dawn’s father, and I use that term loosely, has nine convictions for burglary in the last four years and has never served a single day in adult detention. All cases of violence and abuse against family members have been dropped due to a lack of support by victims and witnesses. We don’t ‘police by consent’ on this estate. In 2004 her broke a Met policewoman’s jaw and received a suspended sentence.