I was sent a fascinating research document by Jessica Eaton, a Specialist Researcher, Writer and Speaker in Forensic Psychology and Sexual Violence.
This is a very long report, but it provides a comprehensive study of the signs and issues around child sexual exploitation.
The document is entitled “Working Effectively to Address Child Sexual Exploitation: An evidence scope”. It has been produced by Research in Practice as part of the Greater Manchester Child Sexual Exploitation Project, funded by the Department for Education Children’s Social Care Innovation Programme.
The report was first produced in September 2015, and was revised by Jessica Eaton in September 2017,
The direct link for the full download is: -
Whilst I read through the report, there was only time to put down a couple of points that I found particularly interesting. The report does repay reading not just for social workers, the police and other safeguarding practitioners, but also lawyers (such as myself) specialising in child abuse compensation claims.
Section 2.4 of the report deals with the creation of stereotypes in Child Sexual Exploitation (“CSE”). The authors point out that the more times a story is reported or told in a specific way, the more likely it is that the general public and professionals will absorb a stereotype of offenders, victims and abuse.
By way of example, there are the recent convictions of a number of sexual offenders of Middle Eastern and Asian ethnic backgrounds, which has led to the view expressed by some politicians that this is a “Pakistani” problem. This is very damaging from the point of view of the multi-ethnic community in which we live. Perpetrators and victims of CSE are known to come from a variety of social, ethnic and cultural backgrounds and CSE occurs in both rural and urban areas.
For victims, a stereotype has arisen of a young white girl, generally in local authority care, known to multiple services and with overt vulnerabilities and exhibiting “promiscuous” behaviours. This is very damaging because there is evidence in the Rochdale CSE cases that the authorities simply “gave up” on children whom they considered to be outside of their control, rather than simply being the victims of abuse.
Typically, the media employ words like “sex gangs” and “child sex slaves” and “paedo gangs” which in turn creates a stereotype of organised crime gangs, whereas research shows that only eight per cent of sex offenders abuse children with another offender.
These stereotypes also brush over the complexity of CSE, which is not exclusively about adults abusing children, but also peer-on-peer abuse and the risks that young people face within their own social settings, such as schools. In addition, both males and females are abused through CSE and similarly, both males and females are perpetrators. Perpetrators may be previous or current victims themselves.
Of course, the man or woman in the street might say “I know what a paedophile is, and I know what child abuse is.” If that were true, then I believe that we would have far less of a CSE problem in our society. Time and time again, both organisations and individuals have shown themselves unable to protect children.
Section 4 deals with the recognition and assessment of CSE. This is nothing less than a subtle and sophisticated process.
Stereotypes and terminology are only a very small part of this comprehensive and excellent document.
Section 3.3 talks about grooming. I quote :-
“It is therefore vital that practitioners understand that grooming is not a linear, systematic process carried out by a homogenous group of sex offenders. Practitioners also need to appreciate that harm of the child does not occur only at the ‘end’ of a grooming process. Grooming is itself an offence and a source of harm and manipulation of the child. Linear models such as the grooming line imply that the harm only occurs at the end of the process which ignores.”
This is an interesting concept, because lawyers dealing with child abuse compensation claims would not normally include within that claim, any element of the “grooming” on the grounds that this was not necessarily psychologically damaging. This needs a “re-think”.
This excellent and comprehensive report draws heavily on real life experiences. I commend it to safeguarding practitioners.
Malcolm Johnson, Specialist Child Abuse Lawyer