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Inertia thwarting the fight against child sexual abuse

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

The following was published in Social Work Matters

Throughout history girls and boys have been sexually abused. The way in which this happens may change, but the self-gratification of the abusers remains the same. Recent trends show the grooming of children is becoming more sophisticated. Early intervention is essential, yet an assessment by the Child Exploitation and Protection Centre found this is not happening in most parts of the country.

Local Safeguarding Children Boards are the key body with all relevant agencies involved. The proactive approach needs to start here. But almost one third have no plans to appoint a child sexual exploitation coordinator and many have no specific representative from sexual health services.

Parents need to know that they can seek help and be listened to. I have met parents who knew something was wrong but no-one took their concerns seriously. This has to change - the longer a young person is subjected to exploitation the more difficult it can be to extract them from the situation.

I find it staggering that video recorded cross-examination allowed by the Youth Justice and Criminal Evidence Act 1999 is still not happening. There can be no argument for continuing to subject vulnerable victims to cross examination given the highly publicised risks this carries.

There are good examples of Local Safeguarding Children’s Boards co-ordinating better across social care, police, health, education, youth offending teams and voluntary organisations. Rotherham set up a joint police and social services unit with a proactive approach; investigating cases of young people hanging around various premises in the town. By becoming involved early, and assessing the situation together, police and social services are able to prevent the situation getting worse.

No words can ever truly reflect the impact of sexual exploitation on a child. Those who suffer may never recover: drugs, alcohol or suicide can follow. Forming healthy relationships can be hard, and as adults some are drawn toward abusive relationships themselves, completing the cycle.

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