Child Sexual Exploitation After Rotherham

Safe and Sound's Chief Executive Nathalie Walters attends the launch of new book 'Child Sexual Exploitation After Rotherham'

Yesterday I attended the launch of Adele Gladman and Dr Angie Heal’s book, ‘Child Sexual Exploitation After Rotherham’ at Kingston University. Speakers included the authors of the book; ‘T’, a survivor from Rotherham who is now a youth worker; Professor Alexis Jay who is the author of the Independent Inquiry report into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham and who currently chairs the statutory inquiry panel into child sexual abuse in England and Wales; and Anne Longfield OBE, the Children’s Commissioner for England.

The most powerful speaker was ‘T’, a survivor from Rotherham, who demonstrated real strength and courage to talk about her experiences, but who believes that professionals need to hear direct from victims and survivors in order to increase their knowledge and understanding of sexual abuse and exploitation. Aged 12, ‘T’ was locked into a room for two days and raped by countless, faceless men, stating, “All I could do was survive.”

Professor Alexis Jay commented “We need to address the problem of demand.” This is so true; the only way we can ever really combat child sexual abuse and exploitation is by stopping the demand for it. Therefore much more work needs to be done around understanding the perpetrators of these crimes, and intervening to prevent them from abusing children and young people.

Anne Longfield talked about learning from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner for England’s recent research, and highlighted some good practice from Iceland with the Barnahus (Children’s House), a child-centred, interdisciplinary, multi-agency response to child abuse. I was excited to learn that a similar model will shortly be piloted in England in September 2017.

It was good to hear Adele Gladman give her perspectives on what still needs to move forwards in the field of work, as they echo what Safe and Sound as an organisation believes and promotes, including:

  • Recognising and addressing vulnerabilities
  • Profiling criminal activity
  • Addressing predatory behaviour
  • Stopping victim blaming
  • Risk assessment tools
  • The quality of plans and partnership work
  • Responding to online abuse
  • Therapeutic interventions
  • Victims’ experience of the criminal justice system

As the seminar outlined, we have made and continue to make good progress in recognising and responding to child sexual abuse and exploitation, but we are still learning, and improvements are still required. As professionals working in the field, we need to remain curious and open to new ideas and keep listening to and really hearing what victims and survivors have to say.

You can support the work we do with children and young people at risk of and affected by sexual violence, exploitation and abuse by:

Author: Nathalie Walters, Safe and Sound Chief Executive

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