I think most countries have their fair share of dirty laundry when it comes to how they deal with social problems. The UK has had some pretty bad cases related to institutional failure that have provided a haven for abusers and oppressive regimes.
Sadly when these scandals emerge, the reaction is often a painful reluctance to investigate and sometimes cover ups that make the whole process a long tortuous saga that ends up years later in legal case and eventually an official report to inform future policy and stopping the same situation from happening again.
There has to be a better way.
It is certainly true that the prevailing culture often tacitly tolerates abuses. Some institutions are quite revered because of the good work they do and the transgressions of some the holders of offices within those institutions are quietly ignored because of that. If they are rotten at the top, it can work all the way through unchecked. Schools, army, police, prisons, childrens homes, hospitals, homes for the elderly, religous institutions, there have been so many cases. The work these institutions do is important so when they go wrong, they need to be fixed or they can do more harm than good.
It would, of course, be better if they are prevented from going wrong by proactive monitoring and investigations of reports of abuse. But balancing the interests of the institution and its important work, against the protection of the victims in its care who have been abused. So often it has been the institution and the abusers it shelters who have been prioritised. Moreover, the priorities are dictated not only by the dynamics within the institution, but also what is going on outside. These places don’t exist in isolation and there is the politics.
In the UK there is the rumbling scandal of female children in care being neglected and abused. Well meaning social workers, policemen and local politicians had other fish to fry rather and deal with difficult teenagers who get involved and are exploited by local criminals. That neglect was well known, but it was not seen as a priority that would become a concern to the authorities. They take their cue from the communities they serve. These kids were not born bad, they came from broken homes and had little parenting.
So it was in Ireland with the baby homes scandal. People in authority certainly knew what was going on, but they considered the interests of the institutions to have priority. In that regards they had the tacit support of the community. Where were the marches, the protests, the demonstrations? It was accepted to some extent.
That these scandals become scandals seems to happen when the culture changes and the accepted balance of moral priorities is challenged and institutions begin to lose authority and support because they no longer fit the purpose they were intended to serve. A gap that grows and widens.
In Ireland they had the Magdalene laundries as an institition to provide a home for these girls with unwanted pregnancies. In the UK they had childrens homes run by local athorities for such girls and these failed in different way. They were not oppressive like the laundries, but they were neglectful and a series of scandals has emerged about the actitivies of gangs of local criminals who abused and trafficked these teenagers under the noses of the authorities.
A common factor seems to be amount of resources devoted to addressing these social problems. A system of slave labour in laundries of Ireland or a lax regime in an under resourced home provided by a local authorities with big social work case loads?
Social problems are often difficult deal with but these two very different solutions seem to have resulted in two types of failure.