Child sexual exploitation and community safety
This ebook on child sexual exploitation (CSE) comes at a time of ever increasing concern about the many ways in which this abuse is impacting our communities across the UK. Early March saw a high profile Downing Street summit on the issue, with another serious case review released the very same day. Both highlighted the need for a more effective response to tackling the issue. Those working within the field of community safety clearly have a critical role to play in this, as part of a holistic multi-sectoral response to the issue.
The first chapter in this edition considers what the role of what community means in the context of CSE, and how alternative discourses around community can undermine or enhance our capacity to effectively tackle CSE within this setting. The next two chapters share learning from research into the issue of disclosure and consider how we could better facilitate this within our communities. The fourth chapter considers the issue of ‘safety’ for young people who have been sexually exploited, while the fifth chapter explores the potential role of participatory arts based methods within CSE work. The final chapter explores the links between CSE, forced marriage and running away, and the ways in which community responses can enhance or hinder responses to these issues.
Whilst diverse in their particular focus, clear commonalities can be drawn from the commentaries presented within the chapters included in this ebook. Firstly, we need to view community safety, and our response to CSE within this, through a child-centred lens. Children and young people experience communities in very different ways to adults in terms of patterns of power and influence, and their status within this. Children and young people may also be negotiating many different communities simultaneously – the geographical community within which their home is based, their school community and multiple online and offline communities of peers.
The chapters highlight the importance of a full recognition of the heterogeneity of children and young people’s experiences and the ways in which their individual biographies are impacted by gender, age, ethnicity, sexuality, disability, class, poverty and disadvantage. They also highlight the need for a critical appraisal of how and who to approach when accessing communities to prevent or address CSE related issues and question whether routes into local communities via community leaders are effective without an assessment of the power held by these leaders. In addition, the chapters highlight the need for a conceptual shift in our understanding of safeguarding that extends our traditional conceptualisation of abuse beyond younger children and the family home to recognise risk in adolescence and non-familial environments. This must be accompanied by a recognition that adolescents, the primary risk group for this form of abuse, require a different response to younger children; one that simultaneously recognises, and manages to reconcile, their increasing maturity and capacity and their continued need for protection. By extension, safeguarding must extend into all communities surrounding the older child as they make the transition from child to adult.
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