Another letter came in this weekend, this time from a mother. Her daughter had been shown a film about a sexual homicide at school and returned home very upset. This campaign started because I was very concerned about our practice as professionals, but I had no evidence that the films were harming children – I just thought that we were being highly unethical and it was probable that we were harming UK children by showing them these ‘CSE films’.
I now have a collection of letters, accounts, messages, signatures and a large following. I was tweeting about my #nomoreCSEfilms campaign recently when Marie*, a mother of two young daughters, read my tweets and realised that her eleven year old daughter had been shown a number of these films recently. She described what her daughter told her and I immediately recognised the plot and told her that the film was ‘Kayleigh’s Love Story’ – a film (amongst others) I have been campaigning against for months. However, the film has received awards, accolades and positive press coverage – leaving experts and academics struggling to voice concerns about the harm caused by showing children films of rape and murder.
Here is the letter from Marie:
My daughter has been shown several films in school. After one of them , which I now know was “Kayleigh’s Love story”, she came home visibly upset and anxious. I asked her what was wrong and she asked to talk to me in private (I have a younger daughter, and she didn’t want her to hear).
She asked me what rape meant.
I was a bit shocked, and explained. She said “I thought that was what it meant but I wasn’t sure”. I asked her how she’d heard the word. She then told me that she’d been shown a film where a “Girl was raped and killed”. She said it was in assembly, and it was shown as a warning, to “keep us safe online”.
She was also worried as the film had stated at the beginning that it would have a 15 rating in the cinema. (I am pretty careful about ratings, and watch things through if in doubt about content). She was 11 at the time.
She’s gone up to school a year ahead, so her peers are a year older, but still well under 15 when they were shown the film. Other pupils commented to my daughter that they felt it was too harrowing. I don’t understand how schools can show children films rated 15 without consulting parents.
I don’t understand how anyone thinks that this is OK to show to a large group of children, some of whom will have surely experienced abuse, and I don’t understand how terrifying young girls is considered helpful. Surely there are other ways of teaching sensible behaviour online? If I’d been asked for my permission beforehand , and seen the film, there is absolutely no way I would have agreed to my sensitive, nightmare prone, deep thinking daughter being shown this film at 11 years old.
She has also seen other films. One of which she can’t remember much about, as she was so distressed she didn’t look at the screen and tried to zone out and not listen. She said it was about a woman considering suicide. Even talking about it now, a year later, she is still upset about the films. I showed her the beginning of Kayleigh’s Love Story, just the black screen with the opening text, to confirm that was what she’d seen, and she immediately confirmed it, and very much didn’t want to even glimpse any actual scenes (obviously I’d stopped the video anyway).
I am so glad that you are trying to get these films stopped. My younger daughter will be starting secondary in September and I don’t want her to see anything like this.
All good wishes, Marie
As I always say – despite the need for this campaign to be successful to protect children, letters like this hurt to read. This is a real child. A real parent. This is real harm. Harm we caused. An 11 year old child (which Leicestershire Police have admitted have been shown these films all over the Midlands despite the film being rated 15) went home to ask her mum what rape was – but was shown a film in which a girl was raped and killed. Why was this film shown to an audience that doesn’t even know what a rape is?
We keep being told that these films are used ethically and carefully with children, by experienced professionals who help the children understand what they are about to watch. But I have never seen any evidence of this type of practice.
Not only this, but who calls a film about the sexual homicide of a child ‘Kayleigh’s Love Story’? This is not a love story. This isn’t even CSE. This is the murder of a child. There is no evidence this case was CSE (child sexual exploitation) – but these films keep getting crammed into these definitions to ’cause impact’ and ‘raise awareness’.
I would like to remind Leicestershire Police (who made and market the film) and every local authority using these films with children that it is not ethical at all, and could even be classed as illegal to show these films to children. Parents and carers have had action taken against them for traumatising children with footage and films that are inappropriate for their age. Adults who show children films of children being sexually abused (real or fake) are committing an offence. Can someone explain to me how a member of the public showing films of sexual abuse to children are a sex offender and a risk to children – but professionals showing films of sexual abuse to children are ‘progressive’ and ‘innovative’?
If you are a parent, please watch my YouTube series to learn more: http://www.victimfocus.org.uk/nomorecsefilms/4594134271
You can withdraw your children from these sessions and you can write to your school Headteacher to request information on the films and resources used to ‘educate’ children about sexual abuse.
If you are a professional, please read my other blogs and watch the YouTube series too. We have gotten this practice very wrong. We are making huge assumptions about what these films can achieve and we are harming thousands of children in the process. This must stop now.
Please sign the petition here: https://freeonlinesurveys.com/s/lHMraCPq#/0
Written by Jessica Eaton