Any child can be af­fected by abuse

Harefield Gazette - - OPINION -

HIGH pro­file child sex­ual ex­ploita­tion cases (CSE) like those in Rother­ham and Rochdale have led many peo­ple to as­sume that all CSE vic­tims are white Bri­tish girls, but it’s not the case.

Wor­ry­ingly, this stereo­type, high­lighted in Barnardo’s new re­port, It’s Not on the Radar, means that some front-line work­ers may be miss­ing chil­dren af­fected by CSE.

Ev­i­dence shows that this vile form of child abuse af­fects chil­dren re­gard­less of gen­der, sex­u­al­ity, eth­nic­ity, faith, dis­abil­ity, back­ground or up­bring­ing.

Re­search has found that chil­dren and young peo­ple with a dis­abil­ity are three times more likely to be abused than chil­dren with­out a dis­abil­ity, while one in five chil­dren we help in our own ser­vices is male. In ad­di­tion, young peo­ple ques­tion­ing their sex­u­al­ity and

search­ing for ad­vice may be more vul­ner­a­ble to be­ing groomed on­line.

Pro­fes­sion­als need train­ing to help them iden­tify chil­dren who have ex­pe­ri­ence, or are at risk of, CSE. This should in­clude recog­nis­ing that a young per­son with a learn­ing dis­abil­ity may have a de­vel­op­men­tal age that is dif­fer­ent to their real age, chang­ing the at­ti­tude that boys who have sex with older women should be grate­ful, rather than this be­ing child abuse – not fo­cus­ing on just one eth­nic com­mu­nity above oth­ers, and re­al­is­ing that girls can be sex­u­ally ex­ploited by older fe­males un­der the guise of friend­ship.

Barnardo’s also wants or­gan­i­sa­tions to work bet­ter to­gether and to share in­for­ma­tion

on the di­ver­sity of vic­tims.

It is also crit­i­cal that school lessons fo­cus on sex and healthy re­la­tion­ships to help chil­dren feel more con­fi­dent in iden­ti­fy­ing risks. This should in­clude in­for­ma­tion on all types of re­la­tion­ships.

It’s vi­tal that young peo­ple, fam­i­lies and ex­perts un­der­stand that this hor­rific form of child abuse can af­fect any child or young per­son. As­sump­tions must not be made – each vic­tim has their own vul­ner­a­bil­i­ties.

Recog­nis­ing the di­ver­sity of vic­tims will help en­sure CSE vic­tims are iden­ti­fied and get the sup­port they so des­per­ately need.

JAVED KHAN

Chief Ex­ec­u­tive

Barnardo’s

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