If you work with young people in any capacity – you need to be aware of CSE – it’s signs, and what to do if you suspect it.
Every single high profile case and serious case review has highlighted the importance of the role schools play in preventing and spotting CSE. Young people spend much of their time at school – and it is here that many of the signs and symptoms of exploitation play out.
When it comes to protecting young people from CSE, experts and charities such as Barnardos agree that the key is to talk to young people openly and honestly about healthy and unhealthy relationships – and not necessarily specific work on CSE. Yes, young people should be made aware of CSE, and grooming and it should be a part of your discussions about unhealthy relationships – but the focus should be on ensuring young people understand what constitutes a healthy or unhealthy relationship.
As mentioned previously we need to unpick the notion that just because you love someone doesn’t automatically mean that they will treat you well. Unfortunately, sometime people tell us they love us so they can use and exploit us – not because they really mean it…
As teachers we need to understand what CSE is and what it isn’t. We need to be able to unpick the myths so we can help unpick the often unhelpful and inaccurate information peddled by newspapers with their own agenda – as well as ensuring that we ourselves are on the look out for signs of young people that may be at risk.
NB: Before we go any further I recommend that you get in touch with Warwickshire’s CSE team. They currently offer free staff training and support. They have a number of Barnardos workers who are experts in the field and can not only ensure all your staff are up to speed – but can highlight the picture on the ground as it is here in Warwickshire.
The government has changed the statutory definition of child sexual exploitation after concluding the previous version was “unclear and out of date”.
The Department for Education has updated its Working Together child safeguarding guidance to reflect the changes, and issued a new guide for practitioners on working with child sexual exploitation.
The Home Office updated the statutory CSE definition following a consultation earlier this year.
“Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. It occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator. The victim may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.”
Whist this is a much better and clearer definition than what we had previously, it still isn’t much good to use when working with young people.
On the Respect Yourself website members of the young people’s project boards came up with their own – easier to digest definitions:
Sexual Exploitation is:
Where someone takes advantage of you sexually by giving the illusion of love and care, or by giving you gifts, food or accommodation.
They may have power over you and use threats or violence, so they can get you to perform sexual acts for them or for others.
When someone who wants to use and sexually exploit you, is nice to you and makes you think they are a safe person to be around.
They can do this by pretending to be your friend, boyfriend or girlfriend, or act like a Mum, Dad, Uncle, Auntie, Brother, Sister or other family member.
When you love someone you will often do anything for them – even things you might feel uncomfortable or unhappy to do normally.
It is amazing what we will do to make our partner happy or in the name of love.
It is very easy to get caught up in the romance of it all and not see that actually the person who is supposed to care for us is really only using us.
The biggest problem with spotting sexual exploitation is often the abusers pretend to be people who love and care for us – we call this grooming.
Sexual exploitation can take many forms. Often it follows the ‘partner‘ model, where someone pretends to be your boyfriend or girlfriend – treating you nicely, buying you gifts only to then use you for sex. This can go as far as them pressuring you to have sex with their ‘friends’ too.
Exploiters are very clever, they use your weakness to manipulate you – distancing you from your family or giving you things that you might need. They are very good and finding people who are vulnerable for whatever reason and filling that void.
Despite how the media often portrays sexual exploitation, it can happen to anyone no matter what sort of family you come from. It can and does happen to boys too.
Often young people can be exploited using web cams or by making sexy films. They think they are performing only for their partner, where as they are actually being recorded and the footage is sold on or distributed.
To find out more read these following pages
- Back to (un)healthy RelationshipsBack to (un)healthy Relationships
- Back to Abuse, power, control & insecurities
- Secret Relationships