‘I had my first ever panic attack watching a CSE film at school’ – another letter for #nomoreCSEfilms

‘I had my first ever panic attack watching a CSE film at school’ – another letter for #nomoreCSEfilms

Tonight, I received another letter from a young person harmed by CSE (child sexual exploitation) films and productions.

We have already heard from Faye* who was harmed by the unethical showing of CSE films after she was abused: https://victimfocus.wordpress.com/2018/01/08/i-was-shown-a-cse-film-after-i-was-raped-i-harmed-myself-that-night-another-letter-supporting-nomorecsefilms/ 

And we have heard the story of Kate, who was harmed by the unethical and blaming use of CSE resources: 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/ 

I am compiling evidence from all over the UK that the showing of films containing rape and abuse of children, to children and adolescents in their thousands – is abusive and oppressive practice. The campaign is under #nomoreCSEfilms on twitter and google searches.

I have said before, that whilst this campaign is incredibly important to me, it always gives me a hollow, sinking feeling to read accounts like the one in this blog. Like the ones that have gone before it. Like the 90 I have already collected. Like the one I received this weekend from the mother of an 11 year old girl who was traumatised by a film showing the rape of a child in school.

I implore professionals, parents and policy makers to stop this practice immediately and to stop the making, selling and buying of these products with immediate effect.

Please read this letter from Josie* and think about the harm we are doing to thousands of children.

***************************************************

Dear Jessica, 

So when I was little, I was abused and trafficked. It started when I was 5, and continued until I was in my late teens. It was violent and systematic. I never told anyone, and that is partly due to the CSE resources I was shown growing up.

 

The first time I ever saw a CSE resource, I was eleven. It was a drama production performed by a travelling company that came into schools. A young teenage girl was depicted as being groomed and eventually raped by an older man. I was so confused. We had never had a lesson on sex education, much less consent, and while I knew what was happening to me was wrong,  I had no idea how to explain it.

 

The atmosphere in the school hall we were shoved into could’ve been cut with a knife. They hadn’t singled any of us out as being ‘at risk’, but it definitely felt like it. I don’t think I breathed the whole time I was sat there. My eyes didn’t move from my lap, and my hands were red raw from wringing them so tightly, trying anything I could to distract from the scene unfolding in front of me. And I wasn’t the only one. Across the hall were other girls having the same trauma response. From those staring at the ground wanting it to swallow them up to others glancing from door to door looking for the closest exit. I didn’t meet anyone’s eye for fear that my dirty secret was about to be uncovered in front of my whole year.

That was the first time I had a panic attack. I wasn’t sure why at the time but I felt the need to run as far and as fast as possible. Things that I’d tried so hard to forget were flashing in front of my eyes.

 

Towards the end of the assembly, a well meaning teacher stood up and told us we now knew the signs to look out for, and with that, we’d been officially ‘educated’. She sent us off to our respective classes with a smile , but it felt like she was looking right into my soul.

 

The girls story in the play was different to mine, she had been given gifts and money where I only knew threats and violence, yet somehow it still felt like through her acting she was telling my story, and revealing it in front of everyone.

 

No one picked up on it though. A group of terrified little girls in a middle school hall, the ones who ran to the bathrooms and threw up straight after, who didn’t look anyone in the eye for the rest of the day. The ones who showered in scalding hot water trying to wash away shame and the ones who covered their bodies at every opportunity, hiding away deep wounds and old scars reading ‘whore’ that littered their skin.

 

I was eleven and this was already my life. No support was offered then, or any year thereafter, when we were sat down and made to watch a film of the same ilk. Some protested that we already knew it, and some of us hung our heads in shame, believing more and more with each viewing that we did know the signs, and consequently everything we were living and breathing and surviving each day was all our own fault.

 

Everything those films and productions and other resources told me, was not that I was brave or strong or clever for protecting a tiny spark of light, but that I was dirty and tarnished, that every one would think badly of me, and that it was all my fault. Those films may seek to educate on warning signs, but for someone already stuck in a cycle, they only ensured that I would never find a way out.

Josie*

To parents: This is happening in every local authority area in the country with children as young as eleven. You can withdraw your children for their own wellbeing. You can meet with the Headteacher to discuss this practice.

To professionals: This is not the impact we want on children, is it? When professionals told us to show these films, when companies and charities sold these films to us, when local authorities were told it would ‘help protect children’… was this the impact we wanted?

Please sign the petition, tell your colleagues, tell other parents, tell your children, write to your local schools and social care, write to your police and crime commissioners – please join the hundreds of people trying to stop this practice with me.

We cannot continue to show unethical, untested resources, films and drama productions to children. We are causing harm. This is no longer a matter of my professional opinion, this is a matter of real children, real harm, happening right now all over the country.

I have meetings with leading politicians in February and can confirm that three local authorities have already withdrawn ALL CSE FILMS from practice in their areas. We can do this if we work together.

Sign here: https://freeonlinesurveys.com/s/lHMraCPq#/0 

Watch my YouTube Series on #nomoreCSEfilms here: http://www.victimfocus.org.uk/nomorecsefilms/4594134271 

Written by Jessica Eaton

Tweet: @JessicaE13Eaton

Email: Jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

Website: 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

 

 

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 

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

Why being sexually exploited is nothing like playing on a motorway 

Why being sexually exploited is nothing like playing on a motorway 

Why being sexually exploited is not the same as playing on a motorway.
By Jessica Eaton

You know it’s bad when you have to stand up in front of 40 experienced professionals and explain why being sexually exploited is absolutely nothing like playing on a motorway. 

I have this thing where my face reveals exactly what I’m thinking, even in professional environments. Those of you who know me will know how true that is. Gets me in lots of trouble and interesting conversations. 

So imagine my face when I am away working in London, explaining to a group of experienced professionals that children are never to blame for sexual exploitation; and a woman puts her hand up and says:
“I’m sorry but I totally disagree with you and I think what you are saying is irresponsible. You’re stood there trying to tell us that children are not to blame for being sexually exploited and you are saying that their behaviours do not lead to them being raped and abused but you are wrong. You are ignoring behaviours that children show that would make them more likely to be abused.”

I asked her to clarify what she meant and reiterated my position that no child is ever to blame for being sexually abused no matter what ‘behaviours’ they showed. 

“Sexual exploitation is like kids playing on a motorway. The kids running in and out of traffic on a motorway are much more likely to be ran over by a car than kids playing at home in the garden. If the kids playing on the motorway were hit by a car, you cannot argue that they are not to blame. Loads of kids that are sexually exploited do things that mean that we cannot argue that they are not to blame. If those kids weren’t on the motorway, they would be ran over. If the kids who are being sexually exploited didn’t do the things they do, they wouldn’t be exploited. It’s wrong to say that they are never to blame. They have to take responsibility for their actions. They need to be taught about their risk taking behaviours so they are not sexually exploited.”

I am not going to lie to you, my face must have been a picture. However, I have worked in sexual violence long enough to have heard this argument many, many times. I’ve heard it tied up with ribbons in fancy language about risk taking behaviours and neuropsychological development – but I have never heard it explained with such a confident analogy. 

My responsibility at this point, as a lecturer – as an expert – is to use this challenge as an opportunity to improve the understanding of the professional who used the motorways analogy – but also the ensure her and the other 39 professionals staring at me, waiting for an answer; do not blame children for sexual abuse.

“Hmmm interesting analogy.” I started.

“Whilst I agree with you that children playing on a motorway would be likely to get ran over, and would be much more likely to be ran over than children playing at home, I don’t agree with your analogy to CSE. Actually, I don’t see any logical comparison between your analogy and CSE at all.”

‘Pick your words carefully, Jessica. Use your airtime to teach and persuade’ I think.

“I would argue that the motorway is a constant, physical but non-motivated danger to humans. When children are playing on a dangerous road, drivers are not purposely, meticulously, carefully trying to run them over from miles away. The car is not motivated to hit them to achieve some sort of pleasure or satisfaction. The child is aware of the dangers of the motorway and understands the speed and velocity of a car travelling at 70mph. The child doesn’t want to be hit by the car and the child has not been groomed and manipulated by the driver to think that they want to be ran over and should enjoy being ran over. The child has not been bribed or blackmailed to be ran over using things they need or want. Do you agree that all of this is true?”

She nodded.

“Would you also agree that no matter how much you taught your children about the dangers of roads, the green cross code and how to stay safe; you still could not blame them if a dangerous driver who wanted to harm children swerved towards them, mounted the curb and ran them over?”

She nodded.

“Child sex offenders are not the physical, constant, non-motivated dangers like the motorway that you can tell kids not to play on. They are the dangerous driver who swerves, mounts the curb and runs over the child, who cannot predict it will happen and cannot protect themselves from the impact.” 

She nodded and the other delegates all began to comment, agree and discuss.

And that’s why being sexually exploited is not the same as playing on a motorway. 

Jessica Eaton

Www.victimfocus.org.uk 

Jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

@Jessicae13Eaton 

Why ‘CSE awareness’ will never prevent CSE

Why ‘CSE awareness’ will never prevent CSE

Written by Jessica Eaton   http://www.victimfocus.org.uk   @JessicaE13Eaton

 

Today, I read this sentence:

“Education of young people is the key to prevention of child sexual exploitation.”

Last week I read this sentence:

“It is imperative that young people receive education to enable them to make informed choices about the relationships they choose to form, to help them to recognise exploitation and abuse.”

‘CSE Awareness’

‘CSE prevention sessions’

‘CSE education’

‘Healthy relationships workshops’

‘CSE information workshops’

‘CSE sessions in schools’

I cannot stand this for a moment longer. This is your official warning that this blog is mainly a huge, well informed, accurately cited, evidence-based tantrum.

So, not dissimilar to the rest of my blogs, really.

Let me tell you why CSE awareness sessions with children will never prevent CSE. Let me tell you why those sentences I had the unfortunate experience of reading; are absolute rubbish. 

  1. Educating children about CSE is important, but it is NOT a preventative strategy.

It is ridiculous to assert that teaching children about sexual exploitation prevents them from being sexually exploited. Calling CSE awareness sessions ‘the key to prevention’ is a new level of victim blaming that my brain cannot even process right now without spiralling into swear words. If we teach children about crossing the road safely, does that mean we can say that we have prevented them from ever being injured by a drunk or careless driver? If we teach children about war and violence, does that mean we have prevented them from ever being a victim of war or violence? If we sit some kids down and tell them about racism and sexism, does that mean they are now magically protected from being racially abused or oppressed because of their sex? Nah. Didn’t think so. You know why educating those children will never protect them? Because…

2. CSE doesn’t occur because a child didn’t have enough knowledge about sex  

That’s right. This is where the ‘CSE sessions prevent CSE’ logic takes us. It leads us right down a path towards arguments that once you increase the knowledge of sex, abuse and violence with children, they will therefore have enough knowledge to somehow protect themselves from a sex offender. I know exactly what the rebuttal to my argument is because I’ve heard it a thousand times “But, but, if we teach children to recognise exploitative situations, they will recognise the signs and exit abuse…’ YEAH RIGHT, OKAY THEN. Gosh, how stupid we all have been. Here we are talking about the massive power imbalance there is in all forms of abuse and the answer all along was to educate children so they just get up, ignore the power imbalance, tell their abuser to eff off and wander into a police station. Simples. I can’t even begin to imagine how insulting that assertion is for victims and survivors of child abuse. Do not be surprised when defence solicitors and well-educated sex offenders start throwing your own logic back at you in court. “Is it not true that the child attended 3 sessions of CSE awareness raising, designed to prevent them from being sexually exploited and yet never chose to report my client? Is it not true that if the child was truly educated about sexual exploitation, they would have known they were being abused and told someone?” You just wait. How are you going to get out of that one? Actually, what about other forms of abuse, does education prevent others from being abused?

   3. Education doesn’t even prevent adults from being abused so why exactly are we using this strategy with children?

For those of you who have been raped or abused as adults, how do you feel about the theory that, had you just had better education about rape or abuse; you would have just left? Yeah, thought so. Arguing that education of social issues prevents victimisation ignores the power imbalances, ignores oppression, is completely inappropriate and amounts to victim blaming. Most adults in this generation have received hundreds of messages, watched hundreds of TV shows, read or heard hundreds of stories of rape and domestic abuse in their lifetime and yet – lo and behold – 1 in 3 women will experience sexual or domestic violence in their life time and in some areas and cultures, this rises to 2 in 3 (WHO (2013) cited by UN Women, 2017). What are we saying about these women? That they all lacked education? That the ‘key’ to ‘preventing’ their abuse was some awareness sessions? Clearly, this logic is hugely flawed. So, why are we applying this faulty logic to children experiencing CSE at the hands of adults?

4. Organisations and public figures gain profit or status by asserting that educating children with their resource prevents CSE

I know right, conspiracy theory stuff!? Not really.

We have no evidence whatsoever that educating children prevents CSE – because we have never tested it. We also have no evidence that any type of sex education or relationships education has any bearing on sexual experiences or relationship outcomes (Bovarnick and Scott, 2016), despite showing some tiny effects that it may increase knowledge. So, no evidence – and yet literally hundreds of CSE resources, CSE session plans, CSE awareness raising programmes, CSE lesson plans and CSE films are being knocked out and marketed in the field as ‘prevention’ tools – some of which are sold for hundreds of pounds.

Why would organisations or individuals do this? 1. It acts as a self-generation income stream for charities and SEOs in the field of CSE at a time of unstable funding. 2. The tools tend to come with heavy, unwarranted praise for how brilliant and innovative the person or group behind the resource are (building status) – despite it never being tested or shown to be effective. I have watched police forces, local authorities, charities and companies scramble to make endless films and resources in CSE and then continually show them as ‘best practice’ with no evidence whatsoever. They then win awards or pat each other on the back for being super-brilliant-excellent-CSE-solvers.

Those same people claim to be ‘child centred’ and ‘child-focussed’. Let me be clear – there is nothing child centred or child focussed about banging out some ill-thought out, stereotypical, narrow focussed, untested resource to use with children and then market it to schools and practitioners as a ‘preventative resource’. The only person at the centre of that strategy is yourselves – for status or for money.

Want some proof? Have a look at the evidence emerging from reports such as the Women and Equalities Committee Report (2016) which found that resources around sexting, sexual exploitation and grooming were being used in the classroom to teach children to blame the child in the film for being victimised and then asking plenary questions such as ‘how could the child have avoided this happening?’ or ‘what could the child have done differently?’ or ‘what do you think led to her being sexually exploited?’ We are actively teaching children to victim blame – and who knows the damage we are doing to the children in the room who are being exploited or abused? I can’t imagine the feeling of watching a resource about a child being raped and then answering plenary questions about what the child could have done differently whilst sitting there thinking ‘but that happened to me… maybe I should do something differently… maybe I am to blame…’ That report showed the impact of using those resources and yet we are still using them across the country and we are still claiming that they amount to best practice to ‘prevent’ CSE.

You might be reading this thinking: ‘This is all a bit far-fetched – professionals and organisations benefitting from making ineffective resources and CSE ‘preventative’ tools? Why would they do this? They can’t all be doing this knowingly?’ And you would be right.

    5. Humans like to find the solution to horrible things in the world, even if they are not correct. This makes humans feel safer and in control.

I have written extensively on this topic recently and will feature in upcoming publications I am preparing in the topic of victim blaming in sexual violence. Let’s break this down for a moment.

“CSE is current. CSE is common. CSE is ‘increasing’ (it’s not, but you know). CSE needs a solution. CSE is about risk. CSE is about vulnerability. We need to reduce those risks and vulnerabilities. CSE becomes about the child. Reduce the vulnerabilities of the child. Educate the child. The child now knows all about CSE. CSE is now prevented. Woohoo!”

This is obviously oversimplified but to be honest, it reads like almost every summary of every CSE resource I have ever read. But why would professionals believe this?

They believe this because it makes them feel in control and it makes them feel like they have a solution to offer to professionals and parents – rather than admitting that the risk is coming from the offender and any child can be targeted and abused, which is likely to make them feel incompetent, helpless or not in control. CSE is a well-publicised social issue and people are frantically searching for the ‘answer’ – essentially ignoring decades of research into CSA which shows that we still haven’t found the ‘answer’ to preventing child sexual abuse as a social issue.

Potentially arising from the way CSE evolved from the terms ‘child prostitution’ and ‘commerical exploitation’ and ‘abuse through prostitution’; children being sexually exploited are still perceived as having some agency and some role in their own abuse and a role in exiting that abuse. Leading on from this, children are now being seen as the solution to child sexual exploitation – change their behaviours, increase their knowledge – prevent CSE. This has meant that organisations and practitioners have erroneously moved further and further towards an educative response to CSE until we are in the position we are right now, with statements like ‘the education of young people about CSE is the key to preventing CSE’. We are now literally sat around tables discussing a child being exploited and trafficked and prescribing them six sessions of CSE awareness and healthy relationships lessons. A huge injustice. A massive facepalm.

The field feels as though it has arrived at a solution. Educate the children and the problem will reduce. Despite this definitely not being the answer, prevention is being focussed on the child and not on the sex offender, which brings me to my final point.

6. Sex offenders are the cause of CSE. Not children. You can educate as many children as you like – there will still be child sex offenders abusing them. 

This is the most important point. Educating children about sex, relationships and abuse is important but it will NOT prevent CSE. Telling children about sexual exploitation will not stop child sex offenders from targeting and raping children. The assertion that preventing sex offending is as easy as a 40 minute powerpoint presentation to a bunch of year 9 kids is appalling. This field is so focussed on presenting the ‘risk’ as being within the child that the risk of the sex offender is essentially ignored. We have decades of research on the theories, methods, risk management and processes of child sex offenders, why does this field ignore them?

Child sexual exploitation is not new. The models and indicators are not even evidence-based and literally mean nothing. We know SO much about child sex offenders already in forensic psychology and criminology and yet I am reading report after report in CSE saying things like ‘we do not know enough about the offenders of CSE’ and ‘disruption of CSE offenders is very difficult because we don’t know enough about them’? EH? Read a book. Psychologists and Criminologists have been banging this drum for MUCH longer than the field of social work and safeguarding – learn from them. Utilise existing research findings. You can’t truly ‘tackle CSE’ if you refuse to learn about sex offenders and to learn from experts in other fields.

For those who will read this and not take it upon themselves to go and learn about child sex offenders, I can offer you a spoiler: There are no studies that tell us that sex offenders never abuse children who went to a CSE awareness session at school. There are also no studies that show that CSE awareness sessions with children ‘prevent’ sex offenders from targeting children.

For the love of humanity, will you please stop saying that educating children about CSE prevents CSE?

“Some girls are just trouble, dear” – A short story about how the other half live.

“Some girls are just trouble, dear” – A short story about how the other half live.

Trigger warning: Child sexual abuse, trafficking, rape, trauma, neglect, gender based violence.

I wrote this poem at 00:35 one night last week whilst thinking about the way children experiencing significant traumas and abuse are brought up side-by-side with children in safe, loving and healthy environments.

You know the kids I mean. The kids at your school who never arrived on time, sometimes didn’t turn up for weeks. Sometimes they were excluded from school and then spent their entire lives hanging around the estate and the school gates. Sometimes they were getting in cars at the end of school with people you didn’t know. They were the ones your parents didn’t want you to hang around with, the bad eggs, the trouble causers, the bad influences, the wastes of space, the never-amount-to-nuthins.

I wrote this to explore how it feels to be those children. And what it must feel like to look upon the lives of others with awe, powerful jealousy and a feeling that they would never understand the stuff they did – even if they tried to explain why they are the way they are.

Those loved kids had never seen the stuff they’d seen. Those protected kids had never felt what they’d felt.

 

A day in her life

I wake up. She wakes up.
I’m tired from drinking til 1am. She slept soundly from 9pm.
I find my screwed up uniform. Her mother brings her ironed uniform.
We’ve got no hot water. She has a hot shower.

I put on too much makeup. She splashes her fresh face.
I straighten my dyed hair. She plaits her healthy hair.
I refuse to eat any breakfast. She is served porridge and fruit.
I forget to make some lunch. She is handed her packed lunch.
I walk out of the door. She walks out of the door.
I walk down to the gulley. She walks down her block paved driveway.
I read the vile graffiti on the wall. She reads ‘Great Expectations’ in the car.
I get asked to get my tits out. She gets asked what lessons she has.
I meet my friends and crash a smoke. She meets her friends and share a joke.

I am taken behind an old shop. She is walking into the school gates.
I am held close by an older guy. She is holding her English books.

I am humiliated and objectified. She is supported and personified.

I am worrying if I’m pregnant. She is wondering if she got an ‘A’ again.

I am falling asleep in class. She is raising her hand when asked.

I am borrowing money for food. She is eating her packed lunch.
I am skipping lessons to get a drink. She is being challenged to think.
I am under the tree that no one knows. She is safely at school in full view.
I am climbing into a dirty bed. She is trying to keep the equation in her head.
I am feeling drunk and bare. She is tying her tie with care.
I am writhing in premature adulthood. She is planning her 14th birthday party.
I am screaming at this guy out here. She is giggling with some guy in there.
I am fighting for him to get off me now. She is twiddling her pencil and laughing now.
I am disoriented and alone. She is getting ready to head home.
I am running through the estate. She is meandering with her mates.
I am wishing I had my damn shoes on. She is watching someone in the distance.

I am coming up the estate hill. She is watching a running shoeless girl.

I am looking over my shoulder. She is distracted from her conversation.

I am pulling my shoes on as I cross over. She is wondering why the girl has no shoes on.

I am staring at some bitch who is staring at me. She is watching the shoe-girl intently

I am embarrassed and cold and need to get home. She is tempted to take pics of this on her phone.

I yell over ‘what the fuck you looking at?’

She mumbles ‘nothing, sorry’.

I feel my face flush red and my eyes well up.

She pipes up ‘but why weren’t you at school?’ 

I yell back ‘the fuck has it got to do with you?’ 

She snaps ‘you look a right mess!’

I yell through tears ‘you know nothing about me, I couldn’t care less!’ 

She gawps at the shoe-girl, the never at school-girl.

I am jealous of the perfect-girl, the mummy’s-whole-world-girl.

She wonders what went wrong for her, why she always cries rape.

I wonder how she got so lucky in a life I am constantly trying to escape.

 

She continues to walk along the street. I pick the stones out of my feet.

She tells her mum of what she saw. I creep in and carefully close the back door.

She is told ‘some girls are just trouble, dear’. I am told ‘that fucking car turned up here!’

She finishes her meal, then does her homework so she can finally chill.

I get another death threat whilst googling where to get the morning after pill.

 

_________________________________________________________________________

This short story ‘A day in her life’ is not as far fetched as some might have us believe. Many children are living lives of horror, fear, abuse and violence, right alongside the children living lives of fun, learning and safety.

 

 

This blog may be reproduced and used in education and professional settings with the name of the blog and the name of the author.

If you do choose to reproduce, please reference:

Jessica Eaton – Victimfocus Blog, (2017)