How to protect children from chicken nugget related sex offences

How to protect children from chicken nugget related sex offences

I am often commissioned to give speeches or to teach about the ‘risks’ and ‘vulnerabilities’ of children who are sexually abused and exploited. Mainly because I oppose this approach and professionals are becoming increasingly curious as to what I can teach them about the fallacy that children have inherent vulnerabilities or take specific risks that would mean they are sexually abused by someone – otherwise known as ‘victim blaming’.

Professionals in the UK have been led to believe that hundreds of ‘indicators’ increase the chances of being sexually exploited and abused, which has led to children being positioned as both the problem and the solution in CSE and CSA. Interventions, campaigns and programmes of work focus on changing the child to make them less… ‘abusable’?

So whilst we are all sitting around tables discussing how we can make 13 year old Layla less ‘promiscuous’ and ‘take less risks’ – we ignore the fact that all of the risks and all of the danger comes from the sex offender, not Layla. Layla is a victim of serious crime. Layla doesn’t need to change.

So how does this argument link to chicken nuggets?

Well:

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Yep. You read that right. A forensic psychologist lifted the lid on new techniques being used by sex offenders to crawl children’s profiles by creating facebook pages of popular foods that children like, in the hope that they join the page.

So, here I am, reading this recent news story about sex offenders posing as chicken nuggets online to groom children. And it made me think about how ridiculous some of our responses to CSE truly are, when you consider how we try to place responsibility and blame children for being abused by adults that are so intent on abusing them, they will literally pretend to be chicken nuggets. I started to think about how the field of CSE had reacted in knee-jerk fashion to cases of sexual offences in the past – and had developed interventions, models, programmes and risk assessments based on anecdotal cases like this.

So lets apply this scenario to our beloved ‘models of CSE’ (which have thankfully been well and truly debunked this year).

The models of CSE, advocated by multiple national charities, statutory agencies and police forces in the UK – are used to categorise the type of CSE the child is being targeted through. However, I have recently written about the fact that the models are not held up by any evidence, science or data whatsoever – and the authors managed to ignore decades of brilliant research on sex offender theory, methodology, grooming techniques and typologies. But people continue to use the models of CSE in their risk assessments and CSE training all over the UK. So, I’ve made them a new one.

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I know, I know. Stupid right?

Well, I wish everyone thought that adding anecdotal evidence to incorrectly used venn diagrams was stupid but unfortunately, we have been working in CSE for over 8 years with these ‘models of CSE’ that make as much sense as the new ‘posing as chicken nuggets model’. Take the ‘boyfriend model’ for example. We are talking about adults who groom children to rape them and traffic them – and organisations named the model ‘boyfriend model’? A model which specifically positions a male offender, a female victim, a heteronormative stereotype of abuse that ignores female sex offenders, same sex abuse and male victims. A model that reframes the abuse as a relationship rather than a crime. Despite the model name being so problematic, no one changed it. And don’t even get me started on the ‘inappropriate relationship model’ of CSE –

“Aren’t they all inappropriate?” A social worker asked me once. I sighed and nodded.

The reality is, the models of CSE have as much evidence base as my ‘posing as chicken nuggets model’ – because the models of CSE have been based on anecdotes and general practice language as the field has tried to respond to the sexual exploitation of children. One of the major problems in CSE is that cases are being taken as the rule, generalised across all cases of sex offending and then all children (and all offenders) and being labelled and categorised and then responded to in the same way – ignoring the nuances of each case.

And what about the heavily-used ‘grooming line’? (Thankfully, another piece that has been debunked as oversimplified and not based in evidence).

How does posing as chicken nuggets online fit into the grooming line in which sex offenders are all homogeneous characters who target children, build a friendship with them, trick them into a relationship and then start sexually abusing them?

This maybe?

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Clearly, it would be stupid to teach this to professionals all over the UK, to tell them that all sex offenders pose as chicken nuggets and all chicken nuggets should be suspected to be possible sex offenders. But the real grooming line HAS been used in this uniform way. Thousands of practitioners in social care have been trained using a grooming line which is so oversimplified, some practitioners do not know that most sex offenders do not actually spend months carefully grooming children to meet with them in dingy bus stations to abuse them. Some practitioners show confusion when I show them real cases of child sexual offences where the offender didn’t even bother grooming the child – and quickly threatened them or blackmailed them instead. Some practitioners still do not know that most sex offenders do not pose as children online, they are actually much more likely to be themselves and tell the children that they are adults.

The grooming line, which is as evidence based as my chicken nugget grooming line above, has influenced the understanding (read: misunderstanding) of sex offending throughout all of social care and even some police forces.

Not only practitioners, but thousands of children have been taught the ‘grooming line’, too – resulting in children (and young adults) completely misunderstanding grooming and manipulation. This is our fault. We have taught children faulty concepts, oversimplified models of grooming and then built resources and interventions around them. Not all sex offenders pose as chicken nuggets online – and not all sex offenders will slowly and carefully groom children, make them feel special, trick them into thinking they are in a relationship and then start harming them. The grooming line assumes all sex offenders groom children in the same way, and that the ‘harm’ comes at the end of the process, rather than acknowledging that the whole process is harm.

Finally, how on earth do we protect children from chicken-nugget-paedophiles? 

With DVDs about chicken nuggety dangers, of course!

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If I have learned anything from the field of CSE, it’s that all sex offending can be solved by showing children graphic films of sex offending. Because as I said earlier – children are seen as the problem and the solution in CSE. (See my #nomoreCSEfilms campaign for more details – that’s real, the nugget DVD is not).

When I mock up a DVD cover like the one for ‘Layla’s Nugget Story’ – it seems ridiculous doesn’t it? The blurb says ‘A film to raise awareness and help children protect themselves from sex offenders posing as chicken’.

The film shows the ‘story’ of Layla, who loves chicken nuggets. She’s just a normal 14 year old white girl (because all of the CSE films are about them) – but she loves nuggets. All of her friends love nuggets. They go to places where they can eat nuggets. She loves nuggets so much that one day, she found a facebook page devoted to chicken nuggets. She ‘liked’ the page. But little did she know… the page was actually a sex offender, posing as chicken nuggets online to steal her profile info and her selfies – so he can blackmail her with them into performing sex acts on webcam.

Silly Layla, she should have known that the chicken nugget facebook page was actually a sex offender. If only she had watched this DVD.

The DVD is shown to thousands of children, who are all now deemed at risk from chicken nugget facebook pages because… kids love nuggets and kids love facebook. The children watch the DVD in which Layla is sexually exploited, distressed and harmed by the chicken nugget offender. Practitioners stand around saying things like ‘this will help the children recognise the signs of chicken nugget offenders and help them to protect themselves from abuse’ and ‘kids these days, they need to know the harsh reality about the risks of chicken nuggets’. Practitioners tell each other that this will help the children protect themselves from chicken nugget offenders and nominate each other for awards for their ingenuity.

After the DVD, the kids are asked questions about what they could do differently in the future to make sure they are never targeted by chicken nugget sex offenders. Boys and girls put their hands up, and are praised for the following correct answers:

“I will never eat chicken nuggets again”

“I will never like a facebook page about fast food again”

“I will become a vegan”

“If my friends like a page on facebook that has fast food on it, I will tell a teacher”

“Layla shouldn’t have added the nuggets page in the first place, then none of this would have happened to her.”

“Layla should have told someone that the chicken nuggets were exploiting her, then someone could have helped her.”

I know – they all seem really stupid answers. They all blame Layla for what happened. They place responsibility on her to have known that a chicken nugget facebook page could be a sex offender.

But these answers are the types of answers we are expecting and praising when the real CSE films are shown to children in our schools and services. Children are asked plenary questions like ‘what would you do in this situation?’ and ‘what should she have done differently?’ or ‘what could she have done to keep herself safe from the abusers?’

Children are reward-oriented and suffer from adult-pleasing because we bring them up in a culture where they are supposed to please us and satisfy us at all times; even when we are talking utter bubbles. So, despite the fact that we are teaching thousands of children to blame the victims in the videos and develop a new, emboldened victim blaming culture in our next generation – they give us the answers they think we want to hear.

They know that practitioners do not want them to put their hand up and hear them say:

“Being sexually abused is never the victim’s fault and you shouldn’t be advocating victims to change their lives and behaviours so they don’t get abused – you should be changing the behaviours and attitudes of sex offenders and you should be improving the criminal justice system!”

So what the chicken nugget has this got to do with anything? Why the chicken nugget satire article?

Because I will not stand for anymore of this palatable, careful, professional, implicit, subtle victim blaming of children – where we come up with more and more models, theories and CSE films that place responsibility on the children to protect themselves from sex offenders. When I saw that sex offenders were creating facebook pages to pose as chicken nuggets, my mind wandered to how the field of CSE would respond to that…

Would they teach the kids to be wary of all chicken nuggets?

Would they make films about chicken nuggets and show them to thousands of children?

Would they create websites and posters about chicken nuggets?

Would they create new models and theories about chicken nugget sex offenders?

Would they add ‘likes chicken nuggets’ to the CSE risk assessment toolkits?

Would they develop resources about staying safe from chicken nuggets online?

Or would they finally come to the realisation that sex offenders will try anything they can think of to groom children (even posing as chicken nuggets) – and that children can never be expected to predict, preempt and protect themselves from sex offenders?

It is time we realised that children cannot influence or stop a sex offender who is abusing them. 

 (Layla’s Nugget Story and the Chicken Nugget Handbook is £294, it will totally help protect children from nugget-related-offences. Honest.)

Written by Jessica Eaton – Doctoral Researcher in Forensic Psychology of Victim Blaming

http://www.victimfocus.org.uk

Tweet: @JessicaE13Eaton

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‘You showed me a CSE film when I was 13 years old… this is how it affected me’ – A letter for #nomoreCSEfilms

‘You showed me a CSE film when I was 13 years old… this is how it affected me’ – A letter for #nomoreCSEfilms

Last week I started the #nomoreCSEfilms campaign – and there are plenty of people who think that I am exaggerating the impact that these films have on children who have been sexually exploited or abused.

I got an email from a parent – a professional parent – whose child was sexually assaulted and was told to show her CSE films. The child was traumatised by the films and asked her mum why she would show these films to her, knowing what she had been through.

But this blog is about, and dedicated to Kate.

Kate is anonymous but has written this letter to us all. Please read and take this seriously. This is just one child, now an adult, who has been affected by our practice.

My name is Kate, and I recently turned 22 years old. When I was 13 years old I was shown CSE videos like the ones detailed in Jessica Eaton’s letter, and I would like you to know how that did and still does affect me.

Up until 12 years old I was a very happy child. Then one evening I was walking home down a quiet side alley when some older boys I recognised stopped me and offered me money in exchange for sex. They started grabbing at me, and I only remember flashes of what happened next. After that I would often ‘zone out’ and lose chunks of time, which is when my school began to notice something wasn’t right. It took a lot for me to talk to them but ultimately, nothing happened. Shortly after, I started getting harassed by other boys at my school. They would follow me, wait outside my house, throw things at me and touch me in ways I knew they shouldn’t. At first I reported them to my school, and in some cases they were dealt with, but over time I stopped. One teacher had called me annoying, and another had asked out right if I had been raped by ‘a man’, as I was over reacting for it to be anything else. I felt like I had become ‘a problem’.

I always thought it was a coincidence that I was shown the CSE resources, but having read about the same thing happening to so many other children I now think perhaps it wasn’t.

Can I tell you what it feels like to sit in a class full of children and be shown videos depicting the most traumatic experience of your life? It feels like your heart is going to thump out of your chest and that you will tremble until you cease to exist. It feels like the world could collapse in on you and that you could explode all at the same time. You’re panicking, and you want to scream and cry but you can’t because then everyone would know what you are. What happened to you.

Afterwards you made me stand up and read a poem to the class about how I could stop it happening to me, when I knew it already had. At 13 years old I stood up and recited from your videos how I could have stopped my own assaults, if only I had thought. Or not walked alone. Or not been so god damn inviting with my female body. I was so sure everyone in that room would see the guilt written on my skin. I felt utterly humiliated.

Everyone in the class read their poems, and it felt like a chorus amplifying my wrongness. It was a competition. I didn’t win.

Your videos taught me that the thoughts inside my head were true. That somehow I’d invited it because of the way I looked or acted or was. That the people around me, my friends, my family and my mum, would be disgusted by and disappointed in me. That they’d whisper and point and think about all the ways I could have prevented it. If only I had known. If only I had told someone sooner. All I had to do was realise what was happening and tell someone. But you see I had realised, and I had told someone. And those videos were what I got. I went into that class feeling dirty and ashamed and left convinced I was right to.

Those videos didn’t make me aware that what happened to me was wrong. I already knew that.

Those videos didn’t make the harassment and assaults stop. If anything, they helped them continue.

So you see, there is no logic in your CSE videos. And I guess I’ll never know why you showed me those films. Maybe you didn’t know what else to do. Maybe you thought I would find a way to make sure it didn’t happen again. If you wanted to shut me up, it worked. Instead of talking I scratched at my skin, trying to stop the aching, bursting feeling inside my chest. Sometimes I would lie powerless on my bed, overwhelmed by the gnawing feeling that I was worthless because I let it happen to me. Sometimes I still do. Every time I wanted to tell someone memories of those videos convinced me otherwise. It took me 9 years to tell someone after you.

Please stop showing children those videos. They hurt more than you can know, and they stop us asking for the help that we so desperately need. It was your job to make it stop, that responsibility never should have sat with me. I needed you to tell me that it wasn’t my fault, to give me the space to be angry and in pain but still be safe and protected.

Please stop using those CSE videos. You’re better than that. I know you are.

Kate – 12/11/2017

Please share this letter, use it in training, read it out at conferences, read it to other professionals, use it in university modules. We ARE getting this wrong. We ARE doing harm. We ARE using untested, unethical resources with children. We ARE teaching children to blame themselves and change their behaviours after abuse.

This has to end, NOW.

Kate, thank you so much for submitting your account to my campaign. Huge respect to you.

Link to the original campaign letter: http://www.victimfocus.org.uk/blog/4593418266

Email me: jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

Tweet: @Jessicae13Eaton

Web: http://www.victimfocus.org.uk

So you’re making a CSE resource? Tips on ethics, science, safety and agenda

So you’re making a CSE resource? Tips on ethics, science, safety and agenda

My #nomoreCSEfilms campaign went viral so fast.

(You can see it here: http://www.victimfocus.org.uk/blog/4593418266 )

I was really surprised. After years of inertia and people feeling that I was recklessly attacking CSE resources, here were 10,000 people who read and shared my letter about the way untested and unethical CSE films were harming children we were supposed to be helping. I have had hundreds of emails from people who are willing to work together to support this campaign. The emails come from regulatory bodies, government, directors, researchers, psychologists of all disciplines, trainee psychologists, lawyers, psychotherapists and even professional parents.

One email caught my eye. A professional contacted me to say that their organisation makes CSE resources and had read my letter and blogs. She wrote to me for advice about what they could do to make ethical and effective CSE resources for children. I wrote back – and thought that I should probably share these tips with everyone. As it stands, I do not currently support the use of ANY CSE films in current circulation. This is because not one single organisation has put their film and resource through empirical testing, psychological oversight, ethical review – and none can prove that their film works as an intervention, prevention or support mechanism. In fact, when I have challenged those organisations, I have been told I am being ‘too academic’ and ‘evidence is not needed’ before using these films with children.

So, this email from the professional who makes these films was a brilliant step forward, and I am happy to share my advice to her:

  • Do not show sexually violent, graphic or violent materials to children – ever
  • Do not ask children what they could have done differently (where the answers are a modification of the child’s behaviour or actions that would have ‘led’ to not being abused, which has no evidence base and is a form of victim blaming)
  • Do not show any CSE films to children who have been abused or traumatised – or are currently ‘at risk’ or being groomed for CSE/A
  • Any teaching or resources should be focussed on the actions, decisions or issues of the sex offender – not the child. Teach children that people who harm them do so because they want to, not because there is anything wrong with them
  • Steer clear of depicting ‘vulnerable’ children – many resources show a child who is having some sort of ‘problem’ which makes them ‘vulnerable’ to a sex offender. There is no evidence at present that vulnerabilities lead to being sexually exploited – and vulnerabilities are not a pre-requisite to being sexually abused. If you would like a thorough argument, please read the new CSE Evidence Review (Eaton and Holmes, 2017)
  • Also, steer clear of depicting stereotypical rape victims (white, female, teenage, socially confident, parties, hotels, boyfriends, taxis etc) – it does nothing for our cause and alienates children who don’t see themselves in the resource
  • Don’t show a linear grooming process where the perp is nice to them and makes them think they are in a relationship and then eventually harms them – grooming rarely works like that in real life and we are giving children a romanticised version of abuse. Not only this, but we are teaching children and professionals that the ‘harm’ of abuse comes at the ‘end’ of a linear grooming process, instead of teaching them that the entire process is harmful and manipulative.
  • Don’t show just one type of sex offender using one type of method – think outside of the box. Maybe the perp could be a woman who is recruiting girls to a fake modelling agency? Maybe she’s super glam and is sexually attracted to girls? Focus on her behaviour and actions – her words and her demeanour. You don’t need to show harm to children to get your point across. Maybe the perp is an old disabled man who tricks children into ‘helping’ him? (I have based this idea on a real case from Elliott, 1995). Maybe the perp is a young, talented sportsman who uses his fame or talent to abuse girls around him? Maybe the perp is a respected English teacher who abuses boys in her primary school class? Try to show the diversity of abusers and the techniques. Some sex offenders are just violent and threaten children. Some offenders will be very careful and charming and nice. Some mix it up. Some have completely different approaches. We are guilty of only ever showing one type of sex offender in CSE films and resources and it’s totally unrealistic.
  • Don’t show online abuse as some fat old ugly bloke posing as a teenager online to groom kids, the research does not support this at all – and it is causing a narrative in professionals all over the UK who think that online abuse is a sex offender who poses as children and then ‘tricks’ them into meeting them.
  • Avoid a misleading title full of buzzwords and sensation. Personally, I think that ‘Kayleigh’s Love Story’ is an insult to her and should have been boycotted the second it crept out of someone’s mouth. It’s not catchy or clever to call a video about a sexual homicide of a child a ‘love story’.
  • Do not sell, roll out or deliver a resource or film that has not been tested empirically and independently
  • In fact, only make a resource or film if you have sought an expert panel which includes child, clinical or forensic psychologists at a bare minimum. Go to your local universities and ask for a reviewing panel. Ask for ethical review. Go and get experts to be your critical friends and listen to them. There is way too much ‘consultancy’ going on around these CSE films and resources where professionals are telling the developers that the resource is unethical or incorrect and then the organisation ploughs ahead and releases it anyway. I know of at least two resources in the public domain that were opposed by experts but were released anyway by the organisation. What is the point of holding consultations if you ignore the experts you invited?
  • Accept that you might not get the answer you hoped for. When we test a new intervention, measure, resource or tool in psychology or social science – loads of them are found to be useless. Academics and experts know that their ideas might sound great but might not do what they think they do. That’s okay. Its part of your learning curve. You won’t get it right first time – but that’s okay too – as long as you don’t give it to anyone.
  • Don’t release anything until you have the data and empirical evidence that it (a) does no harm to children (b) is inclusive to as many children as possible with different versions for children with disabilities, language differences, cultural differences and so on and (c) actually helps children. If you can’t prove these things, it’s not good enough for our children and young people. Apply the standards you would to something being used on your own children or family members.
  • Be proud that your resource or intervention is going through a lengthy process of ethical review, empirical testing and expert critique. Stop rushing to sell knee-jerk crap and focus on bringing out excellent quality pieces of work. Trust me when I say that one piece of evidence-based work will outshine 1000 pieces of ‘knocked-up, half-arsed rubbish’ (quoting myself there, as someone reminded me of my infamous quote the other week). If you or your organisation can commit to a truly critical process of developing and testing a resource or intervention for children, you will leave a lasting legacy for your organisation and you will improve the lives of countless children. That’s what you are aiming for, right?
  • Once you have developed and validated something with expert teams and you are sure it is ethical – now it’s time to evaluate the effectiveness with larger samples of children. What is the effect of your resource? How does it work? How do you know? Does it work the same for all children? Does it work better for some over others? Why? Do children benefit from this? How? How long for? How do you know? Is there any difference between the children who have never seen your film/resource and the children you used it with? How do you know? How will you test this?
  • Evaluation is vital. There are so many CSE films and resources that make massive claims to reduce abuse, increase knowledge, protect children, enable them to spot the signs of abuse, escape abuse, realise what is happening to them – but no evidence and no empirical testing.
  • Only market your resource if you can prove what you say it does.
  • Publish your data and proof for other professionals to explore and feel reassured that it was ethical, valid and empirical.
  • Finally, ask yourselves this question: Why are you making this resource? Is it to make money? Is it to boost your reputation? Is it to showboat? Is it to launch it at an expensive conference? Is it to position yourselves as leaders in the field of CSE? Is it to sell to schools and local authorities for £200 each? Is it to tell people that your resource is the best and everyone should use it? Because if the answer is yes to any of those things, please don’t make it – we have enough of those.

If you were to use these tips, you would have a truly epic resource on your hands. Sadly, the reality is that some organisations will not follow these tips because they are scared that if experts reviewed and critiqued them, they would have to withdraw them or not release them at all. However, I am a firm believer that people who work with humans who have experienced trauma and abuse can literally make or break them in a session. A therapist, social worker, police officer, youth offending working, youth worker, counsellor, charity worker, support worker, teacher – can say something, do something or show a child something that will affect them for the rest of their lives – even when it is well intentioned or they have been taught that it is best practice.

We are all working with our next generation. We are working with thousands of children who have been harmed by adults who they loved or felt safe with at one point. We must not repeat that process of harm by being too lazy or arrogant to test and validate our work before using it with children. We have to be better than this. Children deserve more than this. Children deserve more than someone saying ‘Well, I’ve been in this job for 10 years and this is what is best for them.’

Nope. Evidence doesn’t work like that. Aim higher. Do no harm.

 

If you would like to add your name to the list of professionals who are against the use of untested resources and interventions in CSE being used with children, email me for a chat.

Written by Jessica Eaton

Jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

@Jessicae13eaton

 

 

A letter to UK Psychologists: You have an urgent role to play in CSE

A letter to UK Psychologists: You have an urgent role to play in CSE

Child sexual exploitation and child sexual abuse has always been a central issue in psychology, with millions of adults reporting that they were sexually abused in childhood (BCS, 2016), a 5.7% conviction rate in sexual violence and a 2 in 3 chance of sexual revictimisation in the lifetime (Eaton, 2017). Many mental health issues, trauma responses, psychosomatic issues, coping mechanisms and experiences are related to early experiences of sexual abuse – our body of evidence is absolutely huge on this topic.

Child sexual exploitation has developed in a strange way – the field, which is dominated by politics, NGOs and statutory services, who have developed and implemented interventions, strategies and services with no evidence base whatsoever. It is extremely rare to find frontline workers who have been taught anything at all about the psychology of sex offending, the psychology of trauma responses, the psychology of abuse and harm – or any psychology at all. I have always found this odd, as I see CSE and CSA as issues of human psychology – whether that is the psychology of the offenders, the psychology of the victims or even the psychology of the society which reinforces sexual violence at every turn (something my own research focusses on).

Some might say that professionals such as social workers, police, youth workers, support workers and therapists working with children who have been sexually exploited and abused don’t need the expertise of psychologists or need to understand the psychology of this topic – but I beg to differ.

Out of all our skills as psychologists – whether you are clinical, forensic, developmental, academic, practice, research-focussed, social, counselling health, cognitive, neuro, educational or child-focussed – I think my favourite skill is the level of critical thinking and the seeking of evidence before we support or condemn an intervention, tool, theory or idea.

Psychologists, there are interventions being used with tens of thousands of children all over the UK which have never been tested, have no evidence base and are likely to be causing significant harm to children as young as 11 years old. We have to step up to the plate and do something about it.

Having spent 8 years working in sexual violence, with the last 3 years in CSE specifically – some of the interventions, assumptions and services I have seen in the UK concern me. Some teeter on illegal. I am often the only person in an organisation with psychological expertise and I quickly started to realise that I was seeing problems that others could not see. I was, and still am, seen as hyper-critical or even ‘aggressive’ and ‘unprofessional’, because I am pointing out that the interventions being used on children are not tested, not valid, not ethical and in some cases are clearly harming children and their families (please click this link to read the accounts of real children who were harmed by CSE resources https://victimfocus.wordpress.com/2017/07/08/please-stop-using-all-cse-resources-heres-why/ ).

Here is an extract from the blog in case you don’t have time to go to it:

Young Person 3: Did you lot see that drama thing that came round all the schools where the girl is convinced she’s gonna be a model but they rape her and sell her and lock her in a flat? I BEGGED them not to make me watch that. No one listened to me. I was terrified I was gonna have like a massive mental breakdown in a row in assembly sat on the floor with hundreds of people around me and I wouldn’t be able to get out. They made me watch it like 3 times and one time I was so upset they let me sit at the side of the hall in case I had another panic attack and then loads of people kept asking me why I was sitting there and whether it had happened to me and I was mortified.”

I need your support to campaign against these interventions being used with children. Last month, I presented a workshop on this topic at The British Psychological Society in London – and none of the psychologists I taught had heard of this intervention. I showed the films to them. They were horrified. Two of them rang their kids’ schools to find out whether their children had been shown the resources or were due to see them. Not only this, but many of them stayed behind to ask me how we could form a campaign to stop this practice. This letter is my response.

All over the UK, tens of thousands of children are being shown films containing the rape and sexual abuse of children, drugging of children, trafficking, grooming, bullying and physical violence (in the sector, they are called ‘CSE resources’ by practitioners and the sellers). The films are shown to children as young as 11 years old (and I have heard of children of 9 years old being shown them).

The underpinning assumption with these films are:

  • If children are shown videos of sexual abuse and exploitation, they will know what it is for future reference
  • If children know what sexual exploitation and abuse is, they will be able to protect themselves from sex offenders
  • If children know what sexual exploitation and abuse is, they will ‘spot the signs’ and escape an abuser quicker
  • If children watch the abuse and exploitation of other children, they will realise that it can happen to them
  • If children who have already been abused watch the films, they will understand better what happened to them
  • If children who are currently being sexually abused watch the films, they will leave the abuser

 

All of these assumptions are problematic – some are ridiculous. There is not one single drop of evidence for these assumptions and they completely ignore the power and responsibility of the sex offenders abusing the children. They place an enormous amount of responsibility and blame on children. The assumptions represent a complete misunderstanding of knowledge. Knowledge of abuse, relationships and sex is vital for all children and adults – but it will not protect a child from an adult who is sexually abusing them. Knowledge is irrelevant when a human is being abused, harmed, controlled and oppressed.

And yet, there are a number of active organisations making these films and selling them to schools, local authorities, police forces, probation, youth offending, youth prisons, charities and residential companies. Some of these films are marketed as ‘preventative’, some claim to ‘reduce abuse’ and enable children to ‘spot the signs before it is too late’.

The films are shown to children who are ‘at risk’ of CSE (don’t even get me started on how bad the risk assessment tools are in this field but it is in my latest evidence review Eaton and Holmes, 2017). The films are also shown to children who have recently been abused, recently been raped or assaulted, shown to entire assemblies of children, shown to class-size groups, shown in support groups and charities and shown 1:1 to children who are currently being trafficked and exploited. Basically, they are being used as a catch-all intervention. Practitioners are being taught that these films help children. And then they are convinced to buy them or download them for a cool £294.00 each. These films have become common practice, written into action plans, strategies, policies and strategic responses to CSE all over the UK. Practitioners who refuse to use these films for ethical reasons are often seen as problematic and the work is passed to another practitioner who will.

Just to be clear, here are some descriptions of real scenes from the films being used every day in the UK:

  • A child is given drugs and alcohol and sexually assaulted on a bench
  • A child is drugged until unconscious, trafficked, imprisoned in a dirty room and raped multiple times in different positions by multiple men
  • A child is carried unconscious to a bedroom where men pay to rape her
  • A child is raped, chased into a field and murdered with a brick to the head, the child’s parents identify her body in a morgue
  • A child is taken to a party, drugged and then raped by multiple people
  • A small child who is sexually abused by a man she met online ends the video by looking into the camera and saying ‘I thought I knew. I should have known.’
  • A child is given large quantities of alcohol and sexually assaulted on a sofa whilst limply trying to bat the man away
  • A small child being sexually abused and then taken to the police to give statements

 

I have watched adult professionals cry whilst watching these resources at conferences and training courses. I know professionals who refuse to watch some of them because it upsets or triggers them. We even give professionals trigger warnings before showing them in conferences – but we are showing them to children as a routine intervention. When children refuse to watch them, they are labelled as ‘refusing to engage’ or ‘hard to reach’.

In February 2017, I was teaching a workshop about the lack of evidence base in CSE practice when a social worker put her hand up and disclosed to the rest of the group that she had worked with a girl who had been raped and exploited repeatedly for months. The social worker had been told to show the girl a CSE film in which the teenage girl is trafficked and violently raped. She was told to keep showing the DVD to her until she ‘understands what she is doing’. The social worker was close to tears in my group as she told the room that she made that child watch the DVD 11 times because the CSE strategy group in the local authority had told her that she must keep showing it to her until she realised how ‘risky her behaviour is’ and ‘leaves the abusers’. The child was 14 years old. “What have I done?” She said as she held her head in her hands.

The rest of the group were not shocked. Far from it, they confessed to doing the same thing. They asked me ‘but if we don’t use these films, how else do we get through to them?’

In 2017, Leicestershire police made Kayleigh’s Love Story which depicts the sexual homicide of Kayleigh Haywood who was murdered in 2016. The video is extremely graphic and has never been empirically tested and yet many local authorities paid for this resource to be rolled out to thousands of children in schools all across the Midlands. The resource is used heavily in ‘CSE’ and ‘sexting’ – but what actually happened to Kayleigh was not a ‘love story’ and nor was it systematic abuse – it was a sexual homicide that occurred within 2 weeks of Kayleigh being approached by the offender. The video has gone on to win awards and all sorts of accolades – but it has never been tested for effect, trauma, impact or anything at all really.

There is also a legal issue here. I am worried that practitioners, local authorities and charities are breaking the law. I am sure that showing children sexually violent material is illegal. Even images of child abuse that imply or depict a child are illegal. I am also worried that the consistent, repeated exposure to sexually violent materials to children who don’t want to watch it or have been victims of sexual violence – constitutes abuse.

Even though I have been challenging this practice for two years, progress is extremely slow. But when I talk to psychologists about this, they immediately understand my concerns. Some psychologists have actually asked me for proof of these films because they didn’t believe they existed. I also have a lot of quiet support for this campaign – hundreds of practitioners feel the same way as I do, but they are trapped in a system that makes them use these films as interventions. They rarely speak out because they are worried about backlash. I know first-hand what the backlash is when you argue against these resources, because there is a monetary agenda here – and a larger culture of victim blaming in CSE that feeds these films.

When I spoke at the British Psychological Society, I realised that the reason psychologists don’t know about this problem is because they have been cut out of CSE and CSA services (and we all know the impact of removing Ed Psychs from schools) – which seem to sit squarely within charities, social care and policing. Due to this, people from charities, social care teams and policing teams have led on the CSE interventions without input from experts in the psychology of sex offending and trauma.

Psychologists are extremely rare in social care teams, extremely rare in police teams, extremely rare in charities and are almost unheard of in CSE strategy. Interventions and strategy has been developed and implemented without the oversight and expertise of psychologists, who could have advised on sex offender methodology, trauma of children, impact of abuse, sex offender risk assessment, the development and use of psychometrics, the use counselling skills and so on. The field of CSE has now developed its own subculture which rarely utilises empirical evidence from psychology and criminology – it publishes report after report and never cites research from outside of its own subculture. It is very rare to find CSE research and reports that talk about psychology, criminology, sex offender theory, psychology of trauma, victim psychology, social psychology and so on. This culture has resulted in a ‘reinventing the wheel’ process which has developed untested risk assessments, psychometric measures, outcome frameworks, interventions and techniques that go against everything we know.

Ultimately, it has led to a range of interventions, techniques and assumptions that are not in the best interests of children or their families.

Psychologists, I am writing to you for two reasons:

  1. To begin a campaign to stop the use of these CSE films with children
  2. To begin a discussion about the role of psychology in statutory and voluntary services, specifically those responding to child abuse

I propose the hashtag #nomoreCSEfilms

I have developed a petition on the .gov website which will go live next week – and I will add the link here.

If anyone has links to BPS and can share this to the senior management, please do.

If anyone has links to government, local authority directors and police and health commissioners, please share this letter.

If any psychologists reading this letter want to get involved in the campaign to improve CSE intervention practice and to end the use of these graphic materials with children, please email me jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

 

What if rape was responded to like terrorism? 

What if rape was responded to like terrorism? 

What if rape was responded to like terrorism, and terrorism was responded to like rape?




As someone who specialises in the psychology of victim blaming in sexual violence, I have found the responses and media coverage to terrorism quite perplexing. In this article, I am going to compare and contrast rape and terrorism – and then show what would happen if rape was responded to as terrorism and what would happen if terrorism was responded to like a rape. 

When a woman is raped, she is highly likely to be blamed by everyone from her own family to the support services supposedly helping her. She is also very likely to blame herself – either because she has been told it was her fault, or because she has grown up in a patriarchy that has taught her that rape is a trivial issue that women bring upon themselves, lie about and overreact to. 

She hears victim blaming messages like: 

“You should have known that would happen”

“What did you expect was going to happen?”

“Why didn’t you just leave him?”

“Why did you leave your friends on a night out, that’s stupid.”

“But what were you wearing?”

“You have to take responsibility for walking home alone.”

“You shouldn’t get into a taxi alone next time.”

“You should always get a lift from a trusted friend.”

“Don’t get too drunk this festive season, you need to keep yourself safe.”

Trust me when I say that the list goes on and on and on and fucking on. 

(I dealt with a case of a rape of a 16 year old girl once where she was head butted 10 times in the face and the defence barrister actually defended the rapist by trying to convince the jury that all of her injuries were self inflicted for attention – I have quite literally seen it all. Victim blaming is the name of the game.)

So, when a woman gets raped, everyone is very sure who the problem is. The problem is the woman. The woman must change. The woman must adapt. The woman must take responsibility. The woman must see what’s coming her way. The woman must defend herself better. The woman must make herself completely undesirable and unnoticeable so sex-crazed-men don’t accidentally rape her (#fuckoff). 

The man who raped her is completely erased from his own crime. The woman becomes the perp and the victim – she brought this on herself. She is under scrutiny. Her sex life is investigated. Her background. Her ethnicity. Her class. Her life. Her experiences. Her job. Her education. She is on trial, make no mistake. She is on trial. 

If anyone actually reports on the rapist, he gets a lovely write up about liking swimming and being a great guy – and the huge impact the rape allegation is having on him. 

The police do not rush to arrest anyone. The government does not ‘find’ millions in defence money to protect women. Officials don’t hold emergency meetings about the amount of women being killed and raped every day. 

But what about the terrorism narratives? 

What happens when a guy goes into a tube station and plants a bomb? What happens when a guy detonates a bomb at a concert? What happens when a guy drives into a crowd of innocents? How is it spoken about and what is the media coverage like? 

“We will not change our way of life!”

“We are not afraid of you!”

“You can’t control us!”

“They just want us to stop going out and stop having fun! We will not stop!”

“The world will keep going and we will not be deterred!”

“We cannot let this attack on innocent people change our way of life – we must act, dress, think and behave as normal!”

“I’m still coming in the tube every single day – I’m not scared. They can’t stop me!”

“I still go to gigs – I won’t change my behaviours because of their sick crimes.”

So, when a terrorist attack occurs, there is no victim blaming of the innocent victims. No one tells them to do something different or asks them why they were walking down that path when the car hit them. No one tells them to stop going to work on the tube incase it is bombed again. No one tells them all to take self defence classes and wear bomb proof clothing. No one tells them to stay home and hide. No one tells the victims that they wouldn’t have been in that situation in the first place if they didn’t like Ariana Grande so much. Think about it.
 
The perp is absolutely vilified, in minutes of the crime happening (and don’t get me wrong, I see the intersection here with race and class) – but just look at the difference in motivation and reporting when a guy commits a terrorist attack or mass murder versus when a man rapes a number of women. He has every bad thing he ever did reported about him. The press raid his Facebook and talk to all of his family and friends to piece together how he could commit such a sick act as to harm innocent humans. The police swoop in fast as fuck and it’s ‘all systems go’. 

People call for the death sentence and better prevention approaches. People have huge meetings about how to keep innocent people safe in cities and at events. 

So what if a rape was reported like terrorism? 




“Good Evening. This is the 6 o’clock news. First, this breaking story. This week thousands of innocent women were brutally raped and abused all over the UK. Women who were just going about their day, going to work, looking after their children, exercising and sleeping in their beds – all targeted and attacked. The PM Theresa May has given a statement today committing millions of pounds in resources to stop the abuse and murder of women at the hands of men and has convened an emergency meeting with top officials to understand what went wrong. She finished her speech by saying that women must be able to go about their daily lives without fear of violence and death. Women should not have to change the way they live to stay safe. The public and celebrities from all over the world shared their hurt and condolences on social media. The families are all receiving the very best support at this difficult time. We will be following this story all week, as more and more women are named as victims of rape and male violence – stay with us for live updates throughout the night.”

And what if terrorism was reported like a rape? 




(You could argue here, there wouldn’t be a report. But for arguments sake, let’s pretend the media actually does report rape…)

“Good evening. This is the six o’clock news and tonight we have a number of headlines including the return of Garden Force, the latest from Donald Trump, a report on terrorism and we go live to the BAFTAs. 

A new report on terrorism has shown that at least 3 people per week are being murdered by terrorists and thousands per year, possibly in the region of 700,000, are being attacked by terrorists. Experts have been commenting on the new report with many saying that terrorism is a lot better than it used to be and the stats are only going up because people feel more confident to report it to the police thanks to the brilliant work of police forces to raise awareness of terrorism. A new charity which specialises in terrorism prevention has given a list of terrorist-proofing strategies to vulnerable potential victims and research has been commissioned into exploring what vulnerabilities lead to people being attacked by terrorists. One expert explained that people can stay safe by rarely leaving their house, working from home, never using public transport, never going abroad, always wearing bullet proof vests and never going to large public events of any kind. Pro-terrorist groups have started a campaign called #notallterrorists to put pressure on the anti-terrorist groups to stop talking about terrorism. 
And next up, Garden Force is set to return to our screens next year!”

I won’t stop until the rape and murder of women is responded to and reported like terrorism. 



I won’t stop until victim blaming of women and girls is seen as ridiculous as blaming innocent victims of a terror attack.



Written by Jessica Eaton
Www.victimfocus.org.uk

Jessica@victimfocus.org.uk 

British Pakistani Men raping White British Girls: Bad Apples or a Bad Barrel?

British Pakistani Men raping White British Girls: Bad Apples or a Bad Barrel?

Yeah, that’s right. If the mainstream media can play at sensationalist titles, so can I.

Newspapers, radio shows, TV chat shows, social media and internet news outlets have been positioning Pakistani Muslim men as the ‘issue’ in child sexual exploitation for years now – and we have finally reached a point where suposedly intelligent and influential spokespersons are making frequent racist comments that generalise and dehumanise millions of people based on a handful of highly publicised cases of child sexual exploitation.

We have to fight back against the way the media propaganda and ill-informed spokespersons are affecting the discussion, practice and policy in child sexual exploitation.

In this article, I will present the facts about this issue and incorporate some psychological insight into why we might be so vulnerable to statements that position an ethnic minority group as deviant child sexual offenders. Last week, I had the privilege of filming with ITV for a new documentary which is exploring this issue, so I had done my research and gathered as much evidence and insight as I possibly could. The documentary will be aired in a few months.

I will discuss the following important points:

  1. When we demonise a community as sexually deviant or abusive, we fail to protect or identify victims in that community
  2. We are much more likely to blame a ‘culture’ or a ‘religion’ when Asian and Black people commit crimes than when white people commit violent crimes.
  3. We are basing much of these statements on terrible data samples and have become victims of our own confirmatory bias
  4. We are being distracted from the issue that sexual abuse of children is extremely common, by being encouraged to point the finger at a minority group
  5. This entire situation stinks of structural racism

 

When we demonise a community as sexually deviant or abusive, we fail to protect or identify victims 

It is very difficult to gather any meaningful statistics on prevalence of child sexual abuse victimhood in South Asian communities in the UK and many people simply put this down to low rates of disclosure and high rates of stigma. Whilst both of these things play an important role, I would like to talk about the way the media and the field of CSE has repositioned South Asian communities as ‘problematic’ and ‘hard to reach’ – which will also be having a profound effect on the way people disclose or understand their own sexual abuse and exploitation.

There are thousands of cases of CSE and CSA involving South Asian children. The reason I can say this with zero evidence is because CSE and CSA is not specific to any culture, any country or any region. There are no ‘CSA-prone’ areas and there are no ‘CSA-free’ areas. There are no religions or cultures where the sexual abuse of children does not occur. Many researchers have argued that we should assume, at all times, that the prevalence of sexual abuse and exploitation of South Asian children is the same as any other children. However, after years of arguing this – we are now further back than we ever have been – because we are not only not identifying or protecting children from CSA or CSE in South Asian communities but we are collectively asking  distracting questions like ‘What is is about Pakistani Muslims that makes them rape our white children?’

Questions like that cut out the victimhood of any child who is not white – and those are the questions we must rise up against with everything we have. Questions like that mean that South Asian children do not recognise their own abuse because they are not white and they don’t fit the stereotypes of the kids in the resources, the posters, the adverts and the TV programmes. Questions like that mean that the abuse and exploitation of children is being seen as an attack on white people. Questions like that make me think long and hard about our white privilege and the way we are utilising positions as dominant groups of people to ignore the abuse of South Asian children whilst writing countless commentaries, news articles and documents about the sex offending of South Asian men.

Afterall, how can it be possible that the South Asian community are referred to as simultaneously deviant colluders of sex offenders and vulnerable to sexual abuse?

If the offending of South Asian men bothers you so much, why do you not worry for the safety of their children and develop better ways of working with those people? Why do we continue to make excuses that we do not understand their cultures and child-rearing practices and therefore cannot engage them? Why do we create disclosure-focussed services where the majority of the workforce are white British with extremely low levels of understanding of any other religion, culture and value systems? Why do we comfortably sit around whilst only 22% of CSE cases even report ethnicity of the children (National Police Chief Council, 2017)? If we are only collecting ethnicity data on 22% of the children, how can we even make comments about the ‘majority of victims being white’?

Whilst we have loudly and confidently ‘called out’ the British Pakistani community as if it is one entity of people in some sort of constant sex offending group-think – we have failed to acknowledge that children in those communities are being sexually abused, they are being sexually exploited, they are being raped and trafficked by people in their own families and networks but also by White British sex offenders. 

Whilst we spend our column inches on demonising an entire community, men like my friend are asked questions about why he wants to foster children:

‘Could you just tell us why you want to foster?’

‘Umm because I was in care myself – me and my wife both work in children’s services and we are at a point in our life where we can foster children and give them respite when they need it.’

‘Hmmmm. And there’s no other reason?’

‘Um. No’ 

‘You understand we have to be careful because of all the cases of CSE, you see.’

*horror* 

And strategically, where are we? Well, we are sat around tables planning ways to force predominantly Asian taxi drivers to undertake CSE awareness training or risk losing their licences. We are making dumb comments in the media like ‘we need to make the Pakistani community take responsibility for the sexual exploitation of these girls’.

Which brings me on the the next point.

We are much more likely to blame a ‘culture’ or a ‘religion’ when Asian and Black people commit crimes than when white people commit violent crimes. 

People make memes about America being racist, don’t they? Here is one that will illustrate my point perfectly:

Image result for mentally ill terrorist family guy

When terrorists (or alleged terrorists) conduct an attack, you will notice that the language and reporting changes consistently and significantly depending on the ethnicity of the person. This meme spread across the internet as people realised that white people can commit atrocities, mass murders and terrorist acts but will be labelled as ‘disturbed’ or ‘mentally ill’ (which I accept, has its own problems) – but when someone from Black, Asian or other ethnic communities commits the same crime, the reporting becomes about their ethnicity, their religion, their cultural values and so on.

The same is happening in CSE and we need to get a grip on this quickly.

White British men are the majority offenders of all sexual crimes in this country. However, when was the last time you saw headlines that mentioned their ethnicity?

‘White men rape children’

‘Group of White men exploit children’

‘White teacher exploits three students’

Have you ever seen that? Because, I haven’t.

Replace the word ‘White’ with ‘Asian’ and ‘Pakistani’ and you’ll have seen that a whole lot of times. Why is this?

Well, just like the example I gave you from America about terrorists, this is about attribution of cause and blame. When white people commit violent crime, no one talks about their cultures, their values, their communities or their whiteness. Everyone assumes that they chose to commit those violent crimes because of issues internal to them – the rest of the white community goes unscathed. As we know from the integrated theory of sex offending and the integrated theory of terrorism, the pathways to offending are a complex mixture of personal, developmental, social and cognitive factors. However, because most white people come from the dominant culture, no one writes an article asking ‘What is it about white culture that makes white men abuse children?’

The white person is the bad apple. The barrel is just fine.

By contrast, South Asian people do not come from the dominant culture or ethnicity in the UK, so it is an easy way to deflect for the media to write deliberate articles asking ‘What is is about the Pakistani/Muslim culture that makes Pakistani men abuse children?’

The Pakistani person is not the bad apple. The Pakistani culture (or Muslim religion depending on which tabloid you read) is the bad barrel.

Cultural norms and values are important in the offending pathways and reasoning of some sex offenders – but then we are still presented with the question:

Why don’t we examine the ethnicity, the cultural norms and values of white child sex offenders?’

We see white sex offenders as lone wolves, weirdos, creeps, paedos, psychos, sickos and pervs. Those words all situate the issue within the offender – that there is something ‘wrong’ with them. We see Asian sex offenders as some sort of slave to their culture and religion that has embedded into them the need to abuse children. Those messages do not identify the abuser as the problem, but the South Asian culture or the religion of Islam.

This is scapegoating at it’s finest.

If you truly care whether culture and values underpin sexual offending against children I suggest you read up on the hypersexualisation of children in society, porn culture, misogyny, patriarchal societies, hierarchies in society of adults and children, power imbalances, stigma of disclosure, glorification of sexual violence and ‘sex work’.

 

We are basing much of these statements on terrible data samples and have become victims of our own confirmatory bias

Ahhh the statistics. The statistics that are being thrown around the media with joy. The statistic from CEOP that 26% of CSE offenders were Asian men.

YAWN.

The data samples are horrendous. Here are some important statistics you need to know about this issue:

  1. In 2015, the OCC said ‘Ethnicity data is only collected in around 30% of cases of CSE’
  2. In 2011, the CEOP report had a paragraph underneath the statistics which said that the statistics were not representative and they were only able to identify the ethnicity of 60% of the offenders in the cases – so the statistics should not be used to generalise or come to any conclusions about ethnicity of offenders
  3. In 2011, the CEOP report containing the ethnicity of CSE offenders (which failed to collect hardly any ethnicity data at all by the looks of things) only identified around 6% of the offenders as British Pakistani men. The ‘26%’ statistic came from the category ‘Asian’ which was then split out into Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Other. Other was huge – Pakistani and Bangladeshi were a few per cent each.
  4. In 2014, Aslan & Edelmann conducted a study of CSE offenders online and found that 94% of them were White British men under 26 years of age
  5. In 2017, the National Police Chief Council released statistics which confirmed that the majority of CSE offenders are White British men but it also admitted that it did not know the ethnicity of 66% of the offenders in the 6107 cases they identified.

What you should be able to see here, is that the samples being used to draw massive conclusions about ethnicity of CSE offenders are extremely poor quality – and where the data is of decent quality (such as Aslan & Edelmann) the trend becomes very clear. The majority of child sex offenders in the UK in CSE are White British men. The data coming from CEOP, NPCC and others are so poor that they would not pass peer review to draw any such conclusions.

For example:

If I conducted a study in which 6000 people told me whether they had ever stolen anything from a shop, but only 30% of them told me their sex (male or female) – I would not be able to draw any conclusions about whether males were more or less likely to shoplift than females – because my data isn’t good enough.

Instead, what has happened in CSE, is that these rogue statistics from terrible samples have been propped up by confirmatory bias – with people saying ‘Look at Rochdale, Rotherham, Derby, Oxford. Telford! They were all Asian men! It’s a trend I tells ya!’

To them I say:

‘Uhuh, that’s a handful of cases. What about the other 2150 cases of CSE prosecuted in 2012, of which the large majority were White British men? Do they not count in your ‘trend?’

The reality is – this is the result of confirmatory bias – the cognitive bias of irrational humans (and we are all irrational) to see something that confirms their existing beliefs to use as evidence to support those beliefs whilst ignoring any evidence to the contrary.

And the only ‘trend’ in sex offending is that it is men that largely commit these crimes. 

And yet no one is saying ‘Men! Stop raping children!’ On the front of the tabloids. No one is asking ‘what is it about men that means they abuse women and children?’ 


We are being distracted from the issue that sexual abuse of children is extremely common and being encouraged to point the finger at a minority group

The result of this mass distraction tactic is that the general public and even professionals I work with, are convinced that this is a ‘Muslim issue’ or are telling me ‘the Asian communities need to rise up and publicly condemn these acts of sexual abuse!’

Why do they? Do you ‘rise up and condemn’ acts of abuse every time a white guy rapes someone?

Do you feel implored to put up Facebook statuses when white people commit crimes?

‘I am just writing this status to say, that as a white person, I condemn the acts of this white child abuser today. Not all white people are child abusers.’

Didn’t think so.

Instead of accepting the fact that sexual abuse and exploitation of children has been going on for centuries – in every corner of every land in the world – we are using ‘look-over-there tactics to make this about an ethnic minority. Something that only a dominant ethnic group could do. Despite the fact that most sex offenders are white, no one is challenging our white culture. No one is writing headlines about whiteness being linked to raping children – despite the correlation being much stronger and the incident rates being much higher on paper.

We are being deliberately distracted by the mainstream media and some spokespersons – away from abuse being a systemic, structural and global issue, to the finger pointing at one community. This is a self-preservation tactic. This is ‘othering’. This is demonising millions of people who follow Islam and millions of people in this country of South Asian descent whilst ignoring the fact that they live in a society that largely ignores their abuses and harms.

How do the media even get away with the fact that they have just spent years reporting hundreds of cases of child sexual abuse and exploitation committed by rich, powerful white guys in the public eye – and then make claims that this is predominantly a Pakistani/Muslim/South Asian/Asian issue. Have they forgotten the skin colour of Rolf Harris, Jimmy Saville and their ilk? Have they forgotten the skin colour of the numerous priests, vicars, teachers, careworkers and nuns who abused and exploited children for decades? Have they ever written articles about their religion or cultures?

There are those that say ‘Police and local authorities ignored cases of CSE because it was Pakistani men!’

Well, unfortunately, I have a sober reality for you:

Police and local authorities have ignored and failed in plenty of cases of child sexual abuse, rape, domestic homicide, child neglect and so on – and there was no possibility that was based in ethnicity because the offenders and victims were all white. In actual fact, what we see is a huge inertia and unwillingness to tackle abuse of humans – and whatever reason that can be given will be given:

“But, racism!”

“But, power!”

“But, resources!”

“But, victim blaming!”

“But, sexism!”

“But, cover-ups!”

Cases of abuse are missed, dropped, ignored and failed in this country every single day – and having worked in this field for 8 years, I’ve seen that for my own eyes. Its not based in racism or political correctness – its based in a stigma around abuse.

 

This entire situation stinks of structural racism 

I teach my kids that when they are born into positions of power (they are White, wealthy and male) they have a responsibility to ensure that they never contribute towards – and actively campaign against the discrimination and harm of people without their privileges.

Similarly, this is what we all must learn. This situation – that of the scapegoating and finger-pointing at South Asian Muslims as the ‘enemy’ as the ‘Pakistani men who rape our white girls’ – stinks of structural racism. I have never seen a white politician or white journalist question the whiteness of child sex offenders or ask ‘uncomfortable, brave questions’ about why our culture is so completely jam-packed with abusers. But this move towards racism is not new. For centuries, white people have positioned Black and Asian people as deviant, dangerous, unsophisticated and uneducated. Genocides and Apartheid were preceded by time period where those people were dehumanised, scapegoated and pointed to as the source of every social problem.

We know that structural racism in our CJS is still alive and well because the Home Office published an info graphic two years ago which showed:

  • If you are Black or Asian, you are up to three times more likely to be arrested for a violent offence
  • If you are Black or Asian, you are 7 times more likely to be stopped and searched by police than a white person
  • If you are Black or Asian, you are much more likely to be given a custodial sentence for the same violent crimes committed by a white person
  • If you are Asian, on average you will receive a custodial sentence 10 months longer than a white person who committed the same crime as you

We cannot ignore that this is the society we have built and maintain. How can we possibly argue that this convenient scapegoating of South Asian communities based on a handful of cases is not based in racism? How can we ignore comments like the follow up to Sarah Champion’s article where the writer for The S*n called CSE ‘The Muslim Problem’?

This is the deliberate ignorance of tens of thousands of white sex offenders and the close examination and public demonisation of a few hundred Asian sex offenders to turn them into the new ‘folk devils’.

These offenders are committing the same crimes. They are both raping children. They are both making and distributing images. They are both grooming children. They are both trafficking children. They are both causing serious harm to numerous children. All sex offences are absolutely life changing and abhorrent. All sex offenders have the capability to make decisions about whether they act out their fantasies or impulses. All sex offenders carry out self-satisfying crimes to harm another human.

But when white men  do it, the issue is situated within them as a person – not the white community or their whiteness.

And when Asian men do it, they are seen as an product of their deviant communities, cultures and religions. This dehumanises the offenders – it reframes them as mindless followers – not dynamic, decision making sex offenders like the white men.

And when you make harmful, irrational generalisations about an entire ethnicity or culture based on an individual’s actions, what do you call that again?

Progressive?

Brave?

The word you are looking for is ‘racist’.

 

If you are interested in this topic – why not join Abdul and I as we tour the UK next year to talk about this in much more depth?

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/jessica-eaton-12172989597

 

Written by Jessica Eaton

@JessicaE13Eaton

Jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

http://www.victimfocus.org.uk

 

Do you see young people for their potential or their problems? A personal essay. 

Do you see young people for their potential or their problems? A personal essay. 

I rarely post a personal piece but this one has some legs for wider conversation about strengths-based working and seeing the potential in a young person experiencing abuse. And you get to see some pictures of me in a NY cap, a chain and a hoodie from 2005 – win, win really, isn’t it? 

I had a dream last night that I was back in year 5 in middle school, which would make me 10 years old. I was being taught maths. I was not doing the task. I thought the task was rubbish so instead I was developing a funding bid for a research grant. At 10 years old. 

My old math teacher, Mrs Harrison, came along and started to yell at me in front of the whole class to make an example of me for not concentrating. She was waving my math book in the air and pointing to the fact that I hadn’t even written the date let alone the sums. 

I stood up and said to her:

“Listen Mrs Harrison, I grow up to be fucking brilliant at math and get a PhD that requires skills in statistical equations, psychometric data and being able to use SPSS until I’m blue in the face. Not only that but some day I’ll open a charity and run the whole thing myself including all accounting and finance, so I need to get really good at bid writing because one day I’ll win £500k for that charity. I end up more qualified than you and this task is just some worksheet you downloaded from the internet and doesn’t ‘teach’ me a thing for my future. I need to write this funding bid, alright?”

She tells me to go to the headteacher and laughs at the prospect that I will ever do those things. How could a 10 year old know that, anyway? 

A confused kid asks her ‘What is a PhD, Mrs Harrison?’ 

I walk to the office; annoyed that they can’t see my potential and they don’t believe that I will be any of those things. 

I wake up.

Weird dream, I think. 

But then I wonder how children would develop if they knew they had that potential – if we told them they were capable of anything? They don’t need to be able to ‘see’ their future like I could in the dream but I wonder what the effect would be if a school took on an ethos where the entire staff team used positive future statements about their abilities and ideas – rather than deficit statements like ‘if you don’t do well, you’ll never amount to anything’ and ‘if you don’t do well, you will never get a good job’… 

I wonder what would happen if education systems learned to harness individuality instead of stamping it out. 

The kid that’s always mouthy and has an opinion on everything? Direct them towards public speaking or making YouTube videos on social issues. The kid that is known as the class clown and makes hilarious quips you’re not supposed to laugh at – could they write comedy or sketches for the drama group? The kid that never stops talking about building huge structures on minecraft – could you start talking to them about architecture and challenge them to recreate important buildings in minecraft and then showcase their work? The kid that keeps showing videos of themselves doing stunts at the skatepark, could you show them to the year group and celebrate the skill and practice that’s gone into that? The kid that is always arguing with authority – can you set up a debate team and make them the team leader? The kid that’s always drawing and doodling when you’re talking, how can you harness that amazing artistic skill? 

I have a letter I wrote to myself when I was 10 years old which is at the bottom of my wardrobe in a box – it says ‘one day in the future, I’ll be a psychologist or a politician’ – where would that sense of future come from? 

When I was 13 I did a presentation to my class in which I wandered around as I spoke informally about the topic (I’ve just laughed as I remembered the bloody topic!! It was about the way no one expected a working class bin man to ever make anything of himself and yet he saved up for a yacht and retired to the riviera – it was based on the Deacon Blue song – ‘Dignity’).

I delivered my presentation the exact way I deliver my speeches now: as me – and I got a B because I didn’t stand still and spoke too informally. I knew I would be a public speaker there and then – I didn’t know what I would talk about, but I knew I would be someone on a stage talking about important things to important people. 

I always daydreamed of starting a revolution. I imagined tearing down the establishment and starting again. I imagined rising up out of poverty and making a difference. I imagined arguing in parliament. I imagined being the underdog. I imagined writing books that made people rethink the status quo. I imagined giving interviews and appearing on TV arguing for the rights of the oppressed and vulnerable. 

You know, I once wrote an essay for which I got an A*. The task was to write about a terrifying place. I had been put in isolation and wasn’t allowed to learn in class – I think I had the wrong item of uniform on or something equally as ridiculous. 

I wrote an essay about a building filled with hundreds of humans, managed by grey, tired, dehumanised people who forced the other humans to conform, that taught them skewed propaganda history, that made them all wear the same thing and do their hair the same way, that punished them for irrelevant and minor mistakes to keep them in line. I wrote about a place that everyone believed was good until you were inside and you slowly realised it was part of a bigger system to crush individuality and create workers for the system. I intricately described the isolation room I was in. Even the cracks in the ceiling and the worn carpet. I described my teachers in that essay – right down to hair colour and body language. I handed it in and scrawled ‘THIS PRISON’ on the top of my essay despite me just having sat and described my high school in perfect detail. I got an A* – I don’t think they ever worked it out. It was one of my more subtle acts of defiance – rather than scratching ‘Mr Gregory is a wanker’ and ‘Mr Murray the Masturbator’ in the science lab tables with a compass. The teachers were probably just relieved I had done the work and not ran off for a joint. 

Me at around 14 years old in full chav attire
And throughout all those years of harm in my childhood, why did those feelings that I would eventually be a voice – never really go away? Why was I still so convinced I could make it out of the town and be something? Was it arrogance? How was it that all of the trauma and harm hadn’t knocked it out of me? How did those feelings persists despite no one nurturing them? 

Indeed, one of the first things I did once I left Stoke and left the abuse was enrol on a degree. I remember feeling like I was ‘behind’ on the grand masterplan. I hadn’t been allowed to go to sixth form and I left school 11 months before GCSEs started. I wonder why I had this underlying sense that I needed to get ‘back on track’ and get back into education immediately? Looking back, it certainly wasn’t the logical priority at that point when I was having extreme responses to trauma I wasn’t processing and I was still being hunted down by the abuser I had ran away from. 

Sometimes I stand up in front of hundreds of people and give a speech, or I lecture them on victim blaming in society or some other psychological concept, sometimes I meet with politicians or give a TV interview or write a document – and internally, I disassociate for a few seconds and I marvel at the fact that someone like me is even allowed this platform. Sometimes I am able to take a few seconds to soak in that hundreds of faces are watching, hundreds of brains are engaging, hundreds of ears are listening – whilst I stand alone with a microphone and talk to them about science, evidence based practice and my own research in forensic psychology. I wonder whether they would still listen to this ‘expert’ if they saw me 10 years ago when I was smoking weed, binge drinking, being abused and raped, leaving home, learning how to handbrake turn and drift in stolen cars, riding motorbikes illegally and generally being a ‘troublecauser’ to the outside world. 

Me at around 14-15 years old
I was the stereotypical council estate abused girl who would end up on drugs, dead or in prostitution. Two of those came true. I came very close to death a number of times thanks to a cocktail of drugs, drink and some very dangerous people. There’s only so many times you can wake up face-down on a roundabout until you don’t wake up. 

Me at around 13-14 years old

By the time I was 12, teachers had stopped encouraging me or talking to me positively about my future. Even when I performed well academically – I got ‘You might have done well in your exam but your behaviour is appalling and you never look smart, you still don’t have the right shoes on, your tie is too short – you’re always swearing and you have no respect for the staff!’ 

At least two teachers told me that they had placed a bet in a sweepstake in the staff room that I would fail my GCSEs. I was a lost cause. A waste of time. A never-amount-to-anything. 

I left school waaaaay before GCSEs and I can honestly tell you that the only reason I turned up to take them in between my shifts at two jobs at 16 years old was to piss them all off that I came to my exams wearing jeans. I knew I could bluff through my GCSEs and it should be okay. 

Me – the week I left school and never went back – this was the last photo of me in uniform
I was pregnant when I got my results and furious when I opened the envelope – I got 12 Bs and B+ – not a single A. The teachers didn’t hang around me to celebrate or congratulate or commiserate. I got my envelope and I walked off. I remember scolding myself for mediocrity despite not actually attending school in almost a year and having worked til 12am the night before the exams in bars I wasn’t legally allowed to work in. Despite being in serious danger and being raped almost every day throughout that entire time period. I can honestly say that I was ashamed to look at my GCSE results until about a year ago when I realised that it was a goddamn miracle I even turned up to my GCSEs let alone get 12 Bs and B+… looking back now with all my experience and expertise – I haven’t the fucking foggiest how I did that. The tatty envelope is still in my wardrobe with the grades written on the front. I wonder if my teachers thought I had cheated?

Fast forward to 2017…

Me – delivering some of my PhD research at the Coventry IVA conference

I bumped into my old English teacher recently – when I went back to my home town and needed to nip into Sainsbury’s for a birthday card. I didn’t recognise her at all (which I tend to put down to trauma blocking stuff out) but she eyed me up for about 5 minutes. 

I asked this woman, “Excuse me? Do you know where the greetings card section is? I don’t know this store well and I can’t find a member of staff.”

“Jess?”

I stared at her. She looked familiar. How do I know this woman? 

“Do I know you?” I asked. 

“I was your English teacher…”

I clicked. Ah yes, I recognised her now. She had dyed her hair. 

We had a brief conversation before she interrupted:

“Sorry but you sound so posh and well spoken. You pronounce all of your words correctly. You’ve lost the stokie accent. Where did you end up?”

“I am a doctoral researcher in forensic psychology at UoB working for my PhD and run my own business – I specialise in sexual violence, feminism and mental health. I write guidance, research and I speak all over the country on the topic of child abuse. I am the founder of the first male mental health centre in the UK and we now see hundreds of vulnerable men a year for free.”

There was no mistaking the facial expressions: pure, unmasked shock. Then confusion. 

“You? How? Well, uh, I would never have had you down for that. You were, uh, always intelligent Jess but… you uh, didn’t seem the type to go on to do… uh, anything really… and then you got pregnant when you were, what 16? And that was it really….”

I smiled a knowing smile at her and thought, ‘That was just the beginning.’ 

Written by Jessica Eaton

Dedicated to impactful and ethical research, writing and speaking in forensic psychology, sexual violence, feminism and mental health. 

Www.victimfocus.org.uk 

Email: Jessica@victimfocus.org.uk