“It’s happening to my friends but not to me”
CSE is often viewed as a dirty crime. By the perpetrator. By the professionals. By the public. And sadly, much of the time by the victims. Not always, you understand, but often. I think that once someone identifies as a survivor, they then stop viewing CSE as a dirty crime.
Do you know how many young people I have worked with that when we start talking about CSE they will say “It is happening to my friends but not to me”?
Every single one.
Every single young person I have worked with that has been the victim of CSE will state initially that it is happening all around them but not to them. Sometimes, with work and understanding, the young person can talk about what is also happening to them. Or sometimes one of their peers will give you information that means the young person does not have to say “yes, this is happening to me”.
I have had more disclosures about sexual abuse that is happening from within the home than CSE. I can only speak about my own practice but I can honestly say that in my own personal experience, I have had more direct disclosures about familial abuse than child sexual exploitation, yet I would also say that the ratio of those that I have worked with and believe have been victim to Familial abuse and CSE are equal.
Like I said, Its viewed as a dirty crime. When people think of abuse, often the images that pop into your head will be of a young defenceless victim being groomed or hurt by older people, usually males. This is also true with Child sexual exploitation. But what society also sees is young people “Exposing them selves to risk taking behaviour”. I have quoted that because I have seen that line too many times of official reports. “She is very street wise” when talking about a 13-year-old girl found in a house with older males. “She is at RISK of CSE” when this child is the victim of CSE and the at-risk days are long gone.
I honest to god heard a professional use the term “Child prostitution” 2 weeks ago when talking about a child that is the victim of Child sexual exploitation. Theses are words used by some professionals. Only some. But still used.
Then if we look at the perpetrators, we are no longer talking about fat old me sitting outside schools in cars or in a grubby flat on a council estate. I mean these kinds of people are out there, but Child sexual exploitation perpetrators are brazen …some of them. They are not old and fat, some are you, good looking and charming. Some pull right up to the school gate to collect their “Girlfriend”. Some professionals reporting about such incidents will state “Yes, Jessica aged 15 was picked up by her older boyfriend again from school” and send that off to social services or whoever. Boyfriend! If we are using the term boyfriend instead of what these people are, child abusers, then we are almost making it easy for them. “Jessica aged 15 was picked up by her suspected abuser” has a lot more impact not just for other professionals but also when we are communicating with the young people about these kinds of crimes. But it’s as if “Suspected abuser” is too dirty for some people to use. To raw. To real.
Then we have the children and young people themselves. They don’t want to talk about it. They blame themselves most of the time. Because what we must remember that with Child sexual exploitation, some kind of “Exchange” has taken place. Not really, its just the perpetrator exploiting the hell out of a child, but in the young persons mind they feel dirty. Like…they almost said it was ok because they received something in exchange for being abused. Like money…or trainers…or a £4000 debt that was accumulated from a drugs raid on a trap house and if you can’t pay the money then they said they will come for your mum…you know, that kind of things.
Me, I see it for what it is. Children being sexually abused by adults and peers. The exchange of something means that I need to support the young person in a different way and report it to different people but fundamentally it’s the sexual abuse of a child.
CSE is not a dirty crime. It’s a wicked act that destroys children and young people’s soles and has a lasting impact that you may take to your grave. It’s a crime that needs to be spoken about. It’s a crime I am happy to talk about.
Below is a short video I made for young people explaining what CSE. In a no frills, happy shopper style. Feel free to use this with your young people. Because Child sexual exploitation will not be regarded as a dirty crime on my watch.