The dangers of love at any price

Tragically, the death of estate agent Tim Robinson marked Britain’s
first carjack killing.

The lengthy criminal records of his murderer, Dwaine Williams, 18,
and his accomplice, Aaron Jones, 17, yet again make the argument
for early intervention. But still the system fails.

Brutalised young men have the potential to destroy others – but
young girls tend to inflict damage on themselves. Last week, Dr
Sarah Creighton revealed the results of a study in which she
examined the records of 144 girls aged 12 to 16 who had visited a
sexually transmitted diseases clinic in south London.

One case was of a 16-year-old, a survivor of abuse, who had been
pregnant 10 times. She had kept two children, had three abortions
and lost the remaining five through miscarriages. More than
three-quarters of the girls with infections revealed they had not
used contraception; most had also been pregnant at least once. Dr
Creighton says this is not due to ignorance but because these
teenagers regard keeping a sexual partner – who often has other
girl friends – as more important than looking after their health.
It is love at any price.

Research tells us that self-confidence, assertiveness and
self-esteem are vital tools for navigating the sea of sexuality.
But all three take time to foster and may never be available to the
chronically vulnerable. What’s required is intervention that works
fast without breaching a young woman’s rights – whatever they might

Perhaps, too, policy makers have to address more fully the cause of
the girls’ unwanted pregnancies and infections and the particular
kinds of Casanovas to whom they are drawn. There has been an
upsurge in imaginative projects reaching out for fathers,
unmarried, living apart, young and in prison. Perhaps what is also
required is some fresh lateral thinking to unearth ways in which
“modern” young men, rooted in a past in which girls are only to be
“had”, can be encouraged to overhaul their attitudes and change
their habits.

Some isolated schemes are tackling these issues. But we need more,
outside schools, and backed by a campaign on a national scale
endorsed by street heroes and created by the kind of advertising
agencies which, since they know how to coax young men into
ridiculous degrees of consumer excess by pressing the right sexual
buttons, can presumably equally well flick off the switch so they
can be encouraged to exercise some restraint and more respect
towards the young women they treat as prey.

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