Before I became a full-time author, I was employed in a psychiatric hospital.
As well as working with mentally ill patients on acute and chronic wards, I was also required to work on the hospital’s medium secure unit.
This was a locked ward for patients who had committed crimes while mentally unwell which meant that some of the inmates had no knowledge about what they’d done or why.
The unit was also used as a place where people who only might have been unwell when they committed their offences were taken for assessment.
This group sometimes included people who were ‘playing mad’ in order to get, what they imagined, was a ‘softer’ option to prison on the unit.
They were entirely mistaken in this notion as it can take far longer to be released from a unit than it can to get out of prison.
Occasionally, in this latter group, we would admit a paedophile.
As patient advocate on the unit, it was part of my job to engage with patients with us for assessment and advise them of their rights and responsibilities.
I had been warned that paedophiles often wish to discuss their offences in some detail. So I was prepared.
What I was told, by these people, particularly about the process of ‘grooming’ has stayed with me and it was this aspect of behaviour that informed my latest Hakim and Arnold mystery ‘Bright Shiny Things’.
‘Bright Shiny Things’ isn’t about paedophiles, it’s about terrorists.
Specifically it’s about how organisations like ISIL recruit young women to their cause here in the UK.
During the course of my researches into this subject something that struck me was how similar the techniques used by ISIL on vulnerable young women were to the methods paedophiles employ with children.
It is a mistake to think that the young women encouraged to give up their lives in the UK and go to be with ISIL fighters in Iraq and Syria are always ultra-religious, needy, lonely or suffer from social phobia.
Many are very confident and happy, but what they all have in common is that they are teenagers. This means that their bodies are changing, their hormones are raging and they frequently feel anxious about their future.
Men are a big issue.
So when a really handsome, muscle-bound fighter puts a picture of himself on-line with a message indicating that what would really make his life complete is a perfect virginal wife, it’s as if all their birthdays have come at once.
As in the case of paedophiles, the picture may be genuine, it may not.
With terror organisations, it is more likely to be the real deal.
And so the girl and the terrorist communicate. Everything in the terrorist’s world is fantastic.
In places like Raqqa, he tells her, married couples get fully-equipped, free apartments, the health care is first class and if she wants to, the girl can even continue her studies! Then conversations move to Skype.
Now she can see just how very handsome, polite, genuinely religious and heroic he really is – so unlike most boys her own age who are foul mouthed and just want to get in her knickers.
The terrorist can check out that she’s pretty enough for him. They talk about how marvellous it would be if they could get together.
Groomers are very good at manufacturing a sense of yearning.
One of the paedophiles I worked with promised his victim a holiday in the Caribbean in the middle of a drab UK winter.
That she will go to him by whatever means possible becomes both desirable and inevitable.
If she doesn’t have money of her own, he encourages her to steal.
Just as paedophiles get children to steal from their parents because ‘they don’t understand you’ an ISIL terrorist will say that stealing from ‘infidels’ - a category which includes anyone who doesn’t think as ISIL thinks – is permissible.
In both cases it is only towards the end of the process, or not even until they have met, that talk turns to sex.
Very flattering in the first instance, only later falling into crudity and coercion. But by then it’s too late.
This is because of the investment the victim has made in this ‘relationship’.
He or she has gambled everything on this person by this time and so to give up on this ‘dream’ is too hurtful and embarrassing to contemplate. This is why when groomed children sometimes meet their abusers and discover they are not teenagers but sixty year old men, they still go with them.
Abusers know this.
‘Bright Shiny Things’ is a frightening book. But it is a crime novel too and so it is meant to make the reader scared.
I also hope that it makes the reader think. We know that there are corners of the Internet that are not safe places. But I’m not sure everyone really appreciates how unsafe they can actually be.
To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.