Any child can be affected by abuse
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.