In summer 2017, I started the #nomoreCSEfilms campaign, to stop the use of traumatic, untested and unethical practices with children who have been sexually abused. This campaign is against the showing of films that depict the rape, abuse, grooming and murder of children as false ‘preventative’ methods and as ‘interventions’ and so-called ‘direct work’.
I now have over 200 signatures and professional accounts and 8 accounts from children harmed by CSE films. This rises every day.
I first started receiving letters in Autumn 2017. Letters from young adults. Letters from parents. Letters from professionals. I then spoke to 5 children who had been harmed by CSE films.
Here is one from Kate, now 22 years old who wrote to me in November 2017: https://victimfocus.wordpress.com/2017/11/14/you-showed-me-a-cse-film-when-i-was-13-years-old-this-is-how-it-affected-me-a-letter-to-support-nomorecsefilms/
This latest letter was sent to me through my website http://www.victimfocus.org.uk on the 7th January 2018. Nothing has been edited, except for her name and her location.
Hello Jessica, I have recently seen your campaign on Twitter #nomoreCSEfilms and would like to share my personal experience of this.
As a child I worked with an organisation in XXXX and was shown the film ‘Sick Party.’ I remember the worker coming to my home, she brought her laptop and set it up on the dining room table.
We began to watch the DVD. I remember it being approx half an hour long, during this time I became very upset and panicky. She paused the film several times so I could ‘compose myself until we could continue.’ At the end of the film I was extremely upset and the worker seemed shocked how upset I was. She ended my visit earlier to ‘leave me to calm down’ and said she’d come see me next week, then she left.
I vividly remember feeling so confused, embarrassed and ashamed. At that time what I had just seen made me feel so angry at myself that I’d not kept myself ‘safe.’ I felt stupid that I hadn’t ‘seen the signs.’ I know I self harmed that night, the shame felt unbearable.
Obviously as an adult I now know I am not to blame and that film should never have been shown to me, in my own home and I certainly should not have been left so upset. I wondered if you knew about other ‘tools’ being used?
I specifically remember being told I would see a worker for 6 weeks and each week we would have a specific ‘topic’ to work on. This was set in stone with no negotiation. It was a set plan they worked from with children they supported. One week, she brought some cards. Each card had a ‘scenario’ on it, I then had to match up whether I thought this was ‘Okay’ ‘maybe Okay’ or ‘not okay’.
One scenario that I remember was along the lines of ‘I’m going to take and send a nude photograph’ another was ‘I am going to meet an older man after school.’ The point of the exercise was to look at ways of ‘keeping myself safe in the future’ – like it was my responsibility as a child that had already been abused to prevent it happening again.
This same organisation documented in my notes on discharge that I was ‘low risk’ of future CSE as I had ‘built resilience in sessions’… ‘I now understood the dangers and can make more informed choices in the future.’ It also states that because I came from a good family home, that my parents both had good jobs and that I didn’t present as ‘over sexualised’ I was low risk.
Unfortunately my abuse continued. When I was 18 I was diagnosed with ‘personality disorder’ by the NHS – I was also referred back to the same organisation who had shown me the film for more support. They wouldn’t accept me on the grounds the workers are not ‘mental health qualified.’ They refused to offer me any support as they weren’t a ‘mental health service.’ I find this completely wrong – as my mental health issues ie. low confidence/self esteem were a direct result of the CSE.
If my experience can help with your campaign in anyway please let me know. I really hope no other child has to feel the upset I felt on the day I saw that film, it fills me with disgust this is allowed to happen.
It’s been refreshing to share it with you, many thanks.
I am sure that every practitioner, professional and policy maker in CSE would agree that the aim of direct work with children is not to make them feel silly, confused, embarrassed, ashamed, to blame – and then lead to self harming when you have left. These films are far too graphic, uninformed, based on anecdotal theory that showing children abuse will help them to understand what happened to them – and finally, completely unethical.
I am disappointed to have to say that the film is still being used with children all over the UK. In fact, here is a photograph someone sent to me this week, to ask me whether this DVD is safe for children who have been sexually exploited. They had seen this poster and thought to contact me first, thankfully. I have highlighted in blue, the most concerning elements of the marketing.
As you can see, the DVD is still being marketed as ‘essential viewing’ for children and young people. Essential viewing? For a child who has been raped and exploited? A ‘must have’ DVD if you work with young people?
The evidence is mounting. CSE films such as this one are unethical and untested. None of these films have an empirical basis and efficacy has never been tested. The films have never been evaluated and there is no data available to show us the impact of these films on children. Thousands of practitioners have been misled, and genuinely believe that showing a child a film of a child being abused and raped will help the child. I have set out advice and tips for those thinking of using or making a CSE film here: http://www.victimfocus.org.uk/blog/4593418266
I would like to take this space to thank Faye. Thank you for writing to me. I stand beside you and I completely agree that you should never have been shown this film, never have been assessed using completely untested CSE risk assessment toolkits on children to make decisions about their care and service provision (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/321779703_We_need_to_talk_about_child_sexual_exploitation_CSE_toolkits)
I understand from talking to many people affected by CSE films, resources and risk assessment like this that the realisation that our professional practice harmed them, instead of helped them, is really difficult. They were told to trust us. They were told we were safe. They were told we wouldn’t blame or judge them.
I have said this before and I will say it again:
You can show these films to children now, and they might not protest. They might not understand. They might not have the power or strength to tell you to turn it off. They might not know they are having a panic attack. But one day, they will. Mark my words, one day, these children will be adults and they will look back on your practice. Please think about this.
Showing a DVD of a child being raped, after she/he has been raped – is child abuse.
This account from Faye is not unique or uncommon. Over 55,000 children were shown just one film in the Midlands in 2017 (Leicestershire Police) . Thousands of copies of Sick Party, My Dangerous Loverboy, Kayleighs Love Story and many others have been shown to tens of thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of children across the UK.
This practice has to stop now. I’m not shutting up about this.
Dr Nina Burrowes, Professor Liz Kelly, Catherine Knibbs, Dr Alec Grant and 185 other professionals in the field of psychology, social care, psychotherapy and policing are ready to oppose this practice and reform the way we respond to victims of CSE.
Sign the petition and watch my films here: http://www.victimfocus.org.uk/nomorecsefilms/4594134271
Written by Jessica Eaton, with special thanks to Faye for her experiences.