‘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.

What is a CSE film anyway? 

It’s a series of films being used in the UK depicting the rape, abuse and murder of children. These films are sold to schools, local authorities and charities to show to children who have been abused and raped – or to show to hundreds of children in assemblies or classrooms as a ‘preventative measure’. 

Obviously this is extremely traumatising and unethical and I strongly oppose this practice. 

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
Link to my YouTube series about CSE films and the petition: 


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





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