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Report out next month

(13 Posts)
Thistledew Mon 15-Oct-12 09:10:49

One to watch out for.

Next month the Children's Commissioner will publish their report on the the sexual exploitation of children by groups and gangs.

I heard the Deputy Chair of the Commission speak at the weekend, and she gave a brief report of their findings. There is a significant problem of child rape in this country; overwhelmingly the perpetrators are men and the victims girls. Contrary to what the Daily Fail et al would have us believe, most perpetrators are white men, but there is a slightly disproportionately high number of victims from BME backgrounds, when compared to population percentage. The perpetrators and victims come from all social strata.

It will make grim reading and indicates that there is significant evidence for us having a systemic problem in our society.

namechangeguy Mon 15-Oct-12 09:54:48

How do you deal with this problem though? It isn't as if the perpetrators are unaware that their actions are morally and legally wrong. Can we do anything other that root cause analysis, i.e. find out who is most likely to commit such offences and subject those at most risk to some kind of monitoring?

I am thinking specifically of those who have been abused themselves becoming abusers. Do we stop them from becoming parents, or being in positions where they can come into contact with kids? Any ideas what the report recommends?

Thistledew Mon 15-Oct-12 12:10:04

The report is the first part of a two year study, so is aiming at collating information rather than making recommendations. It apparently has collected information as to what are particular risk factors for young people and what signs there may be for parents, teachers, social workers etc to look out for that indicate that a young person is at risk of sexual exploitation or is being exploited. Also on dealing appropriately with victims so that they can come forward to report their abuse without fear of prosecution themselves, for example (it has been found to be a common tactic of gangs that they will get the children involved in drug dealing or similar so that the victims are too frightened of the police to seek help).

It would be nice to think that they could make recommendations about stopping the abuse in the first place, but what can they really say apart from telling abusers not to abuse?

AbigailAdams Mon 15-Oct-12 12:56:11

Well namechangeguy those abused could be believed and the perpetrators convicted for a start. Sending out messages that this won't be tolerated. Really it isn't OK to have sex with 14 yr old children.

Stopping the media and commercial sexualisation of our teenage children (and younger).

Stamp out sexual harassment in schools (which is already being tackled).

And naming the abuse for what it is, which hopefully this report will do. Adult men feeling entitled to have sex with young girls.

Thanks for this Thistledew.

Thistledew Mon 15-Oct-12 13:14:45

There is some info regarding the inquiry on the website here. I will post a link to the report when it comes out.

namechangeguy Mon 15-Oct-12 13:22:40

Abigail, you or me saying we believe the victim will not stand up in a court of law, as we all well know. A judge cannot say that, nor can the police, nor can the jury. I would imagine that these sexual abusers carry out their acts away from public view where there are no witnesses, so it becomes one person's word against another. How do you tackle that within a legal framework, when there is no witness and no evidence?

'Sending out messages that this wont be tolerated' is rather nondescript and a bit of a throwaway line. Hence my questions about stopping abusers becoming abusers, rather than just dealing with the awful consequences.

SmashingTurnips Mon 15-Oct-12 13:33:49

Thistledew, thanks for this - it sounds very good (although also very grim).

First step to tackling abuse is to admit that it happens - and admit that perpetrators are rarely challenged.

It is a whole culture - rape culture/abuse culture, that needs tackled and a light shone on it.

It is good if investigation is being done as to what makes a person vulnerable to being preyed upon by a sexual predator but I think we need a massive attitudinal shift in the police, the law and society in general. Hopefully this report will help achieve that.

Thistledew Mon 15-Oct-12 13:37:21

The collection of data will provide invaluable information for experts who work with victims of abuse to increase their knowledge and to provide information to the courts that when a victim exhibits xyz behaviour this is consistent with how someone who has experienced this form of trauma will behave. This sort of expert evidence is critical in educated those within the legal system, for example the police and judges, and is in common use now. Expert reports to say that x child who has suddenly become quiet at school apart from the occasional angry and violent outburst, is a child who is behaving in a way common for a victim of abuse, and isn't just misbehaving. Or that y child who has started hanging out with a gang and committing petty offences may well be being groomed for sexual abuse and so should be treated as a potential victim and given support, rather than punished and thrown in jail where the grooming can continue.

It may seem like common sense to people who have known abuse victims or been though something similar themselves, but as we all know there are still huge problems with rape myths being accepted and perpetuated by the police, judges and juries. Collecting hard evidence rather than just ranting "how bloody stupid are you to believe that?" is probably the best way to chip away at such myths.

SmashingTurnips Mon 15-Oct-12 13:42:06

Sounds really good Thistledew.

DuelingFanjo Mon 15-Oct-12 13:47:18

"It would be nice to think that they could make recommendations about stopping the abuse in the first place, but what can they really say apart from telling abusers not to abuse?"

it's such a sad state of affairs when little is done to stop the abusers. How can we make sure that men grow up knowing this kind of abuse is wrong? I don't think that the majority of abusers have been abused themselves, at least not in the same way. I would think it's more that their 'moral compass' (I hate that expression but it's the only phrase I can think of) is wrong to start with and that must have something to do with the society we now live in where more and more boys and me are growing up believing that women are just property, just there to be abused and used.

AbigailAdams Mon 15-Oct-12 14:09:24

I didn't mean we as in you and me, namechangeguy. I meant the culture/society that we live in, as SmashingTurnips described. Campaigns like "We believe you", safe spaces for children to share and tell someone, judges and police being aware of the myths etc etc. Concious-raising, shifting societal attitudes and perceptions. There is a lot that can be done once the problem is named and defined, correctly. Whether it is done is another matter.

Surely as well there can be some police/crime methodologies that could be used to actually discover and catch the abuser?

AbigailAdams Mon 15-Oct-12 14:20:20

Oh and porn is another factor in the rape/women as property culture. I wonder if the report will look at the abusers porn usage.

KRITIQ Mon 15-Oct-12 14:42:54

I believe this may be about the University of Bedfordshire study by Sue Jago and others which was published about a year ago. The report as well as their data monitoring tool and a pro forma for assessing how well given authorities respond to child sexual exploitation can be found here. Some of the same team are carrying out similar research for Scotland (which reminds me, I must find out when this is going to be published.)

I've heard the researchers speak and it's pretty sobering stuff. Basically, the upshot is that services to detect where children and young people are at risk of abuse and the systems designed to protect them simply aren't geared towards addressing child sexual exploitation at all. The report found a very few examples of "good practice," (and said that since the report was published, some of the agencies and services that were delivering that good practice have since been wound up or cut back severely due to funding cuts.) sad

Child protection is geared towards younger kids who experience sexual, physical or emotional abuse or neglect primarily in a home setting, mainly from a parent or other adult in a parent-like role.

With child sexual exploitation, it generally involves slightly older children (10 or 11 plus), often where there have been no previous concerns about the child or family. The perpetrator is rarely within the family, may not be known to them at all, and may not even be in the country (e.g. grooming online and getting children to perform sex acts on web cam, for example.) Often the perpetrator isn't even the stereotypical "dirty old man in a mac," but can be of a similar or only slightly older age than the young person. Children are often "groomed" into sexual exploitation by young people who are already involved in this - both boys and girls, and both boys and girls can be targeted. They are often induced by "rewards" like phone credit, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs and also the "kudos" of being popular because they are doing something seen to be "grown up" amongst their peers. Sometimes it can morph, for example, from a "teen relationship" where a boy then offers his partner's sexual services to friends or to other men.

Another crucial factor is that often the victims don't see themselves as being victims of abuse. They like the rewards they get and the status they feel it brings. Although more research is needed to find out into factors that may make some children more vulnerable than others, there is some evidence that children who are exploited suffer from low self-esteem, have been bullied or have experienced something that has "unsettled" their life - e.g. a bereavement, parents relationship breaking down, moving schools, an illness, etc., something that means they are "open" to the inducements of those who groom them. There is also evidence that young people with learning disabilities are more highly represented amongst those who are sexually exploited than they are as a proportion of the population.

I think one of the big problems here is that too often, society at large, as well as the practitioners in the police, social services, health and voluntary sector who are in a position to do something about this problem, believe that young people who are being sexually exploited are just "streetwise" rather than victims of abuse. To be fair, it can't be easy working with young people who may not see that they need or necessarily want help. But, there needs to be a MASSIVE head shift amongst all those professionals to understand that if they are under 16, it's sexual abuse, whether or not the young person sees anything wrong with it.

We saw the consequences of this sort of attitude with the safeguarding board in Rochdale. We see it in all those people who insist that Jeremy Forrester was only a silly teacher who fell for the charms of his old-enough-to-make-grown-up-decisions student. We see how the BBC managed to ignore children being sexually exploited and abused by their own senior personnel, no doubt convincing themselves that the children were probably willing participants.

That head shift is only one part of dealing with the problem, but it's a bloody important one.

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