Never forget the “Child” in CSE
Child sexual exploitation
Let me say that again
Child is the key word here for me.
It saddens me that some adults have lost sight of the word “child”. When talking about children and young people exposed to CSE I am still hearing professionals use words such as “Flirty” “Promiscuous” and “Sleeps around” when describing what the profile of a CSE victim may look like.
I recently had a mother say to me that her 14-year-old daughter “Has always been like that” when we discuss the fact that her child says her “boyfriend” is 21 years of age.
In recent training I delivered, when I asked what the age of consent is, a professional raised their hand and said, “Is it 14 for boys”. If the professionals have no clear understanding of consent how we can expect children and young people to know what is ok and what is not.
So what kind of child springs to mind when we say Child sexual exploitation. When talking to professionals in training, this is the general description or pin profile of someone who is the victim of CSE:
Aged between 13 and 16
History of services involvement
Involved in risk taking behaviour.
So, let’s look at this generic victim that many people may imagine. Let’s say we have a 14-year-old girl. She starts going to house parties, there is a constant supply of free alcohol and drugs. She wears over sexualised clothes and often engages in sexual activity with other young people in her peer group. She is known to go missing and is hardly ever at school.
Then one night, the person or people that have been holding these parties and supplying the “Free” drugs and alcohol tell her that, they are not free, not tonight. And she needs to pay that debt off. The exploiters tell her that she dresses like a sket, acts like a sket …so it is not a big deal that they now want her to do things for them.
This young person may feel that they can’t tell anyone what is happening because they have already been labelled as “trouble” or “Promiscuous”
This is the kind of scenarios many children and young people can fall into. This is the kind of language that is used towards them. I have worked with professionals who have even gone as far to suggest that these young people want to engage in such activity. That they earn money and gifts from sexual acts and such and are “Drawn into that lifestyle”
The reality is that she is a victim of CSE and the words “Flirty” and “Promiscuous” have no place when professionals are talking about victims of CSE. Never.
So what about all the boys that don’t come forward about CSE. Its happening…right now. But it seems the focus is on the girls. It seems that most people identify as gang culture being mostly boys and CSE usually girls. Is that what people are really thinking. Is that what you think?
Some people still used the words “Child prostitutes”. I have been in meetings and heard people use them words. Of course, I challenge and of course I make my point clear that there is no such thing as a child prostitute. But if adults, professionals, and maybe even young people are viewing CSE in such a way then the battle to end CSE is even harder.
Let’s go back to the 14 year-old girl. The one who took the free stuff, dressed, and acted in a sexualised manner. Does she deserve to be the victim of CSE? I pray that you are thinking No, that she does not deserve to become a victim. She is a victim of child abuse if CSE takes place. And not one single bit of responsibility should have to fall on her shoulders that she has become the victim of CSE.
It would be like saying that someone who has been raped asked for it.
A child is never the cause or to blame for CSE. NEVER.