In the course of a work conversation the other day, someone asked why a third person felt they had the right to do what they did. It’s a question that’s often asked. When I wrote up the notes, because of the age I am and my recall of 1960’s popular music, the words of the Honeycombs’ 1964 hit single ‘Have I the right?’ suddenly intruded on my thinking.
The lyrics go ‘Have I the right to hold you’ then ‘Have I the right to kiss you’, then ‘touch’ and ‘thrill’. The chorus then chimes in; ‘Come right back I just can’t bear it. I’ve got some love and I long to share it. Come right back to me where you belong.’
At 10 years old I enjoyed the drum heavy foot-stomping beat (courtesy of a female drummer which was pretty rare 58 years ago) with no thought given to the issues of consent or coercive control that can be read into the words. That’s not to say that songs in some music genres today do not reflect such unhealthy attitudes to intimate relationships. But ‘Have I the right?’ was a song of its time and there were many other contemporary examples where partners and lovers were either given ultimatums to return or where consent was subtly (and not so subtly) assumed.
Consent is a key consideration in safeguarding work. It can describe the boundary of a relationship, and alternatively governs what steps we can take to intervene when an adult makes unwise choices, or lacks capacity to make safe decisions. Consent also affects what we can do when an adult discloses abuse and they are anxious about what happens next. It impacts on how and why we share information with other churches or statutory agencies. In all, it’s one of those words that conveys so much and weighs equally on our safeguarding practice. To override consent, whatever the circumstances, is a big step to take.
The Honeycombs appeared several times on Top of The Pops in 1964. The lead presenter was Jimmy Savile. As we now know, very sadly he never sought any consent for what he did.