Child Sexual Exploitation – its not your fault!

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CSE Day 2016 – its not your fault!

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) can have lifelong consequences.  Moreover, many of the girls and young women we work already have additional vulnerabilities in their lives which can already leave lifelong damage: 23% had recognised mental health issues, 42% were involved in substance abuse, 52% had experienced domestic  abuse in their home and 21% were involved in offending. The longer CSE goes unnoticed, the greater the likelihood of substantial impact on young people’s lives.

That’s why its so great to see so many organisations taking part in the  National CSE Awareness Day, set up by the National Working Group – from the police, to local authorities and LSCBs and lots of other local voluntary sector organisations through community awareness to publicity campaigns, the creation of resources to social media awareness throughout the week and on the day itself.

This year, we decided to let young people have their voices heard in the campaign #helpinghands   -and sharing those throughout the day.  We currently support 10 – 12 young women at risk of or experiencing CSE and we support over 50 young people a year, with over 94 % reducing their risk to low in the past year.

We asked them what they would say to Picture2 (2)other young people to prevent them experiencing the same things they have, to other young people already experiencing CSE and to practitioners and other adult supporting young people like them and the results were impressive – many focused on the theme of “blame and judgement” (“its not my fault” ,“don’t judge”, “don’t punish”) .This theme was alPicture3so loud and clear when we did a workshop with young women in Year 8 about CSE and asked them for similar messages.
These were young women that had taken part in a CSE Awareness raising session a few months ago and it was great to see so much of our session had been retained. “Its not your fault” is so important to share – its key in ensuring a young person seeks help, as many still are afraid or embarrassed to do so: NSPCC research from 2014 shows that young people suffering contact sexual abuse are not sharing this with anyone in particular when this is abuse by a friend (in 34% of cases of abuse by adults and in 82% of abuse by peers they did not tell anyone).

Recogising young people are not to blame is also key for their self-esteem during and following specialist support services like Basis YP . It also key in making sure professionals acknowledge the need for support rather than responding “you shouldn’t have…” and “why did you” as sadly we still see happening today by young people, professionals and  society alike.

The increased focus by the media on the issue is great and has helped raise awareness of CSE in general but also helps challenge stereotypes such as “it only happens to girls” – through the media focus on the sad story of Breck Bednar. Sadly the media focus in not always helpful– as some media stories get more coverage than others, there is a perception that CSE is limited to those cases that appear on the front page – such as Rotherham. However, as Adele Gladman, one of our trainers at Basis and lead professional that helped bring the Rotherham cases to light said last week at  the “Coming out of the Darkness”  conference – “its not just Rotherham, cases like these are still not coming to light across the country”. This unbalanced reporting ensures stereotypes about the background, gender, ethnicity and location of victims and perpetrators are reinforced.

Over the past 2 years we’ve trained over 800 professionals in Leeds and across the country on a range of aspects relating to CSE: understanding grooming models, risk assessments and perpetrators to dealing with the practical challenges and supporting victims through court and raised awareness of CSE with over 3000 young people in Leeds. This work is vital to ensuring more young people are prevented from becoming involved, recognising the signs if its happening to them or their friends and if they do become involved, have well trained professionals at hand to support them. We need more than that though  – society as a whole needs to understand and recognise child sexual exploitation as its everyone’s responsibility – why don’t you make your own pledge today to #ENDCSE #Helping Hands?

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