sexual exploitation of children

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Child sexual exploitation: police campaign is guilty of victim blaming

Published January 14, 2015 by misty534

Manchester’s campaign focuses on children and young people rather than abusers

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The phrase “It’s Not Okay” headlines a new police campaign in Manchester, aimed at highlighting the sexual exploitation of children in the city. As part of my training as a social work student, I’m working with young people who are at risk of being sexually exploited. It’s a bold statement, but who is it addressed to? What assumptions underlie this warning and inform how we, as (soon to be) professionals, tackle the problem and work with young people?

The campaign coincides with Ann Coffey’s report, released in October 2014,which describes child sexual exploitation (CSE) as a “cultural norm” in certain parts of the city. Coffey’s report, entitled “Real Voices”, is explicit in putting the voices of young people, literally, at the forefront of her recommendations. The decision to prioritise the voices of young people speaks directly to the criticism levelled at other local authorities (notably Rochdale and Rotherham) for ignoring and blaming young people. Yet I can’t help feeling the recommendations formulated in the Coffey report, and the coinciding police campaign, have not gone far enough in re-framing how we understand child sexual exploitation, and what we do about it. There’s something in the language that does not speak to the cultural shift that Coffey champions.

The website for the It’s Not Okay campaign elaborates on the message and makes it clear who it’s intended for: “It’s not okay for someone to manipulate you into doing sexual things for their own or someone else’s benefit.” Similarly, the Coffey report recommends “build[ing] resilience against CSE in children and young people”. Is this warning, then, aimed at children and young people? How does a child build resilience against an adult sexual predator? Should children be landed with this responsibility?

The sentiment behind these statements is bolstered by the story that is retold, via the campaign and the report, about CSE. Coffey warns that “Sexting, selfies, Instagram and the like have given rise to new social norms in changed expectations of sexual entitlement, and with it a confused understanding of what constitutes consent”. Can the organised exploitation of children be reduced to a communication issue, that young people are not good enough at saying no? To me this is a sugar-coated, online version of the “what was she wearing?” culture of blame that has plagued rape reporting.

In 1999, academics Celia Kitzinger and Hannah Frith took to task rape prevention and resilience training for young women. They argued that our professional focus on teaching young women how to refuse sex not only makes women and girls accountable for their rape, but is counterproductive insofar as it implies that other ways of refusing sex (with silences or even weak acceptances) are open to reasonable doubt. Kitzinger and Firth, using examples from ordinary conversation, demonstrated that people – men – understand refusals even when they’re not explicitly stated. Add to this the recurring theme of drugging, alcohol use and blackmail used by perpetrators in grooming gangs. The idea that consent is “confused” or that we need to build young people’s “resilience” against the actions of these men minimises the crimes that are being committed against them.

As social workers we need to provide a platform for the voices of young people, but we also need to check that our own, professional voice does not echo the victim-blaming culture that the Coffey report very explicitly seeks to address. When I talk about CSE to my colleagues, to other agencies, and to young people, I want to be talking about gender and the entitlement that is afforded to all men, not by social media as Coffey claims, but by a society that still values the lives of girls and women less than the lives of their male counterparts.

When I read about strategies to tackle CSE I want to read about co-ordinated approaches to working with the men who groom young girls and boys. The introduction of injunctions for suspected perpetrators in Birmingham and training programmes for the city’s taxi drivers are an example of this focus being redirected. When I’m working in a multi-agency context I want it to be made explicit that we are working in and against a criminal justice system characterised by a culture of disbelief that continues to be biased against women.

As a profession we have the privilege, and the responsibility, not only to re-tell the stories of young people in our care but to re-write them. To do this we not only need to educate children and teens, who already have brilliant voices: we need to educate ourselves.

Lauren W is a social work student at the University of Salford

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The Guardian

29 children in Royal Borough identified as possible or actual sexual exploitation victims in 10 months

Published October 24, 2014 by misty534

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COUNCIL chiefs are warning the number of children identified as at risk of sexual exploitation could increase as more is done to identify victims.

Since December, there have been 29 girls aged 13-17 identified in the Royal Borough as either being at risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE) or who have been exploited.

In the last 12 months, the Royal Borough and its partners have made a drive to identify and help victims which means more cases could be recorded as young people come forward and staff mould best practice in identifying potential victims.

Speaking at a meeting on Wednesday, David Scott, the council’s head of education, strategy and commissioning, said: “I think it is safe to say we are at a relatively early stage and we will get a better picture over time.”

Cllr Phill Bicknell, cabinet member for children’s services, has ordered a full internal audit about all areas of the council’s approach to protecting young people at risk, including looking at taxi licensing and checks on houses of multiple occupancy.

Adults concerned about the welfare of children, should call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000. Children can call their own specialised NSPCC line on 0800 1111.

In a non-emergency situation, the Royal Borough can be contacted on 01628 683150.

The Royal Borough Observer

Schools target child sexual exploitation in Middlesbrough

Published October 17, 2014 by misty534

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Acklam Grange School in Middlesbrough

THE grooming and sexual exploitation of children in a North-East town hit the headlines recently. LUCY RICHARDSON discovers what is being done to protect youngsters at schools Middlesbrough to ensure it doesn’t become another Rotherham or Oxford.

ONCE upon a time, teachers were just expected to educate children on the three ‘R’s’, now they have to add relationships, rape and arrests to their heavy workload.

The House of Commons Select Committee report into Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and the response to localised grooming last year highlighted that teachers were key to identifying children at risk and potentially be able to stop children becoming victims of abuse.

At Acklam Grange in Middlesbrough, a model to tackle the issue head on has taken 12 years to develop. Youngsters aged 11 to 16 receive information, advice and training from Barnardo’s and the NSPCC and staff were trained to a high level to spot warning signs so alarm bells rang.

The secondary is part of a Big Lottery Funding bid which would enable the school to employ two non-teaching staff to offer pastoral support involving CSE through a ‘Headstart’ programme.

With 32 per cent of pupils from (Black, Minority, Ethnic) backgrounds the school has a diverse cultural mix with differing attitudes to what’s sexually acceptable. It also has children on its roll from Eastern European counties where it can be the norm for youngsters to have sex from 12 or 13-years-old.

It has forged leads with community leaders to educate and raise awareness as well as having a counsellor attached to the school. And it runs sessions on Female Genital Mutilation for some girls in their early teens, an age where they could be at risk of illegal circumcision.

The Integrated Youth Support Service was working with Prince Bishop, Ashdale and Acklam Grange Schools which could be rolled out to other secondaries. A group of sexually exploited girls was making a film about their experiences which will be shown in schools and youth centres.

Every secondary school in the town has a designated member of staff trained to pick up on the signs of CSE but the pro-active model developed by Acklam Grange was especially praised at a recent meeting of a council scrutiny panel.

Another of the steps it has taken involves police officers interviewing suspected victims of abuse in the safe school environment. The police said we cut four to six months off investigations because they did not need to take the time to build up relationships,” explained Acklam Grange assistant headteacher, Martin Burnett.

It is vital that we acknowledge that it is a problem. It is something that we need to make sure does not get any worse and that’s by raising awareness.”

“We have to be constantly aware that society is changing and we know these issues manifest themselves in school,” he added.

Evaluate Tees Valley is a charity delivering sex and relationship education in schools which has developed a new hour long session on grooming for exploitation called ‘sexploited’ which will be introduced at Key Stage Three from January.

Last academic year its project manager, Annalise Higgins, and her team worked with 5500 children which is set to increase in 2014/15.

“We help people understand what the process of grooming is, on the surface it looks like a really healthy relationship.

“Even if they are not certain, even if they are just a little bit concerned we say “It’s fine, better to speak to someone about it”.

We all want to be accepted and we all want to be loved so when somebody comes into your life and says “you’re beautiful, you are gorgeous, you’re amazing” and buys you presents so he can always reach you. It’s easy to be taken in.

“Then it’s the exchanging of favours – I’ve done this for you now you have to do something for me, it’s very calculated. It could be the people around who pick up on what’s going on. We want to help them keep control of their lives or regain control if it has been lost.

“We give them permission to talk about it. Teachers are, understandably not particularly keen to talk about sex education when they see them every day but it means that afterwards they can go to a member of staff they trust and have an important one-to-one conversation.

“We want to create a school culture of open dialogue over these taboo subjects so they are not taboo anymore,” added Annalise who praised the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) website “Think u Know” website which educates about internet for children as young as five.

At the moment a couple of slides in a presentation for year nines in Middlesbrough, Stockton, Redcar, Hartlepool and Darlington already include a couple of slides on grooming.

“You can see a lightbulb moment on the faces of some of the teenagers in the room. They go a little bit grey and you know there will be a change now in something they do that will keep them safe.”

Findings of report into child sexual exploitation across Stoke-on-Trent to be discussed this morning

Published October 16, 2014 by misty534

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COMMUNITY leaders will sit down later today to discuss the findings of a review into child sexual exploitation in the city.

Stoke-on-Trent City Council commissioned the report in May after it was revealed that 27 children were sexually exploited in the city last year.

The review – part of the Stoke-on-Trent Safeguarding Children Board’s overall strategy – examined the work being done to protect and support vulnerable children and young people.

It highlighted significant good work and practice and made some recommendations for further work, which centre around continued best practice and advice.

And members of the authority’s Children and Young People Overview and Scrutiny Committee are due to discuss the findings this morning.

Councillor Gwen Hassall, the city council’s cabinet member for social care, said: “We take the issue of child sexual exploitation (CSE) extremely seriously. That is why as part of our overall strategy to prevent CSE in the city and to protect our vulnerable young people, we commissioned an independent review by a leading national authority.

“We want to further improve our services, and the review is helping us to do that by highlighting our good practice and making recommendations for changes.

“It is a very sad fact that CSE is a national problem and takes place in every city – Stoke-on-Trent is no exception. But we are committed to addressing the issue head on, and will continue to do so along with our safeguarding partners.

“We want to reassure parents that CSE is something that will not be tolerated, and we are doing all we can to safeguard children against it.”

Chanon Consulting and the University of Bedfordshire were commissioned to carry out the review on behalf of the authority and the safeguarding board.

Christine Christie, director at Chanon Consulting, said: “It is a testament to the commitment of the Stoke-on-Trent Safeguarding Children Board and partners that they went ahead and commissioned an independent and therefore public review.

“As part of this, they will have known that a review of services would identify areas for further development.

“We are confident that they will honour the review recommendations.”

Jon Brown, NSPCC lead for tackling sexual abuse said: “It has become abundantly clear in recent times that child sexual exploitation is a widespread and growing problem which threatens communities across the UK. It is not an isolated phenomenon that affects just a few areas.

“We welcome the approach taken by the authorities in Stoke-on-Trent in both recognising the problem in the city and taking action to address it.”

Assistant Chief Constable Jon Drake said: “Staffordshire Police will continue to work with our partners to educate and prevent this sort of crime.

“We also have a dedicated team of highly skilled detectives working to support the victims and bring those responsible to justice.

“However, the measure of success in tackling the sexual exploitation of children is not the number of prosecutions, it is when there are no victims.

“I urge anyone with any concerns or information to speak out and contact the police or any other professional working to protect our children so we can take action.”

Adults who are concerned about a child or young person being sexually exploited can contact the city council on 01782 235100, Staffordshire Police on 101 or the free 24-hour NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.

Stoke Sentinel

ITV News reveals how police ignored teenage victim’s written account of sexual abuse

Published October 15, 2014 by misty534

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ITV News has learned that police are to re-open an investigation into the death of a Rochdale teenager who alleged she was sexually exploited by a gang of older men.

Victoria Agoglia Byrne, 15, died of a suspected drugs overdose in 2003. She was living in a care home for young people at the time.

In an account written as much as two years before her death, Victoria described her sexual abuse by a gang of older men.

As part of our investigation into failings by Greater Manchester Police (GMP) to investigate sexual exploitation, ITV News can reveal that Victoria’s account was handed to police in 2004 but was never acted upon.

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Although one man was later jailed for supplying drugs to the teenager, officers have never pursued allegations that she was sexually abused.

Victoria’s account, which is not printed in full out of respect for her family, includes references to sexual exploitation and drugs. An extract reads:

I am only 13. I got the rest of my life ahead of me. I have slept with people older than me. Half of them I don’t even know there [sic] names.

– VICTORIA

Timeline of alleged sexual abuse of Rochdale teenager

Police are to re-open an investigation into the 2003 death of Rochdale teenager Victoria Agoglia Byrne after an ITV News investigation revealed overlooked evidence of sexual abuse. Here is a timeline of her case:

  • 1997 – Victoria moves into a care home for young people following her mother’s death
  • 2001 – She is believed to have written an account of her sexual exploitation and use of drugs in this year, aged 13
  • 2003 – Victoria found dead in a Manchester flat after a drugs overdose
  • 2004 – Greater Manchester Police receive an internal report detailing claims of sexual abuse against numerous young victims including Victoria
  • 2012 – Nine men jailed for running a child sex ring in Rochdale
  • 2014 – Greater Manchester Police agree to re-open investigation into following an ITV News investigation

Committee tackles child sex abuse

Published April 22, 2013 by misty534

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Efforts to eradicate the sexual exploitation of children are to be looked at by a parliamentary committee.

The Public Petitions Committee has been studying the effectiveness of current guidelines and practices around the subject over the last month and will now focus on the barriers that prevent cases being reported and investigated.

The committee wants to hear from bodies working to tackle exploitation to find out the difficulties which exist in relation to the identification, disruption and prosecution of the perpetrators.

The key issues the committee wants to address include existing barriers to identifying perpetrators of child sexual exploitation, training needed to identify perpetrators and victims, difficulties in keeping children living in care safe, and monitoring of social media communications.

Convener David Stewart MSP said: “There are thousands of people across Scotland who work tirelessly to tackle the sexual exploitation of children and help support its victims.

“We want to hear from people on the front line about the barriers they face on a daily basis and about what more needs to be done to tackle and prevent this shameful abuse of children from across Scotland, including the emerging issue of online and social media abuse.”

The inquiry was launched following a petition from children’s charity Barnardo’s which called on the Scottish Parliament to review and develop dedicated Scottish guidelines.

The closing date for submissions is May 31

 

Paisley Express