‘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

“I was shown a CSE film after I was raped. I harmed myself that night.” Another letter supporting #nomoreCSEfilms

“I was shown a CSE film after I was raped. I harmed myself that night.” Another letter supporting #nomoreCSEfilms

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.

Faye*

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.

sick party poster 2018aa

 

 

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.

Are you?

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.

@JessicaE13Eaton

http://www.victimfocus.org.uk

 

Stop asking me ‘what about men?’ 

Stop asking me ‘what about men?’ 

Everyone who follows my blog knows that my best work is written in rage, or port. But Christmas has gone now so no more port. 
Well, at least I still have rage. So back to that. 

Recently I have been getting increasingly frustrated with ‘whataboutery’ every single time I write or speak about women or girls. 
For those of you who don’t know what that word means, ‘whataboutery’ is when someone responds to a difficult issue or question with a counter issue or question that completely derails the conversation. 

Example:
Mai: My research focussed on the murder of women in Yemen 
Randomer: uh, this is a bit sexist. What about the murder of men in Yemen? Don’t you care about men? 


Example 2
Pam: I’m really upset with you for stealing from my purse 
Mel: What about that time you stole from the local shop? You’re not innocent either, you know! 
Pam: I was 9. 
(Haha) 

Familiar with that? Yep? Thought you might be. Sometimes reminds me of gaslighting. 
Okay, so back to the rage. Rage that I need to put in context for this blog to make a jot of sense. 

Almost 5 years ago, my father in law died after we had tried everything to help him and begged every agency and service for help. We got the dreaded phone call from police to say they had found a body. It was his. We had to go and identify him. He was a very vulnerable adult struggling with addiction, homelessness and a very complicated trauma history. 

At his wake, my Husband and I decided to set up a charity for male mental health and well-being and we named it ‘The Eaton Foundation’ (TEF).

(Someone once laughed at me, ‘Bit narcissistic of you isn’t it, naming a foundation after yourself?’ and then went every shade of red whilst I told them it was my late Father in Law’s name.) 

So in 2013 we founded the charity, of which I am still the Chairperson. The charity only supports adult men. We grew exponentially. I mean – from like 10 men to 150 men in one year. In the second year of operation I managed to secure over £270k of funding and funded the renovation of a huge old derelict building which we turned into the first male mental health and well-being centre in the UK. 

My husband runs it on the day-to-day, along with his staff and volunteers. We now employ 6 people and have a further 9 volunteers. We see hundreds of men a year who benefit from completely free, lifelong support including counselling, benefits advice, food parcels, housing advocacy, legal advice, IT suite, music and band practice, employment clubs and training courses, fitness clubs, art therapy and so on. Some guys have been coming every day for years. Our clientele is between 18 and 85 years old from every walk of life you can imagine. 

Why am I telling you this? 

Because in those 5 years, I have NEVER received the amount of abuse and ‘whataboutery’ that I get for my work and research with women and girls. 
Most of you know me for my work with women and girls and my controversial tumble into CSE. My PhD focusses on the victim blaming of women and girls in society which includes one of the largest ever literature reviews of every factor in society that supports victim blaming of women and girls (I do mean every factor I could find evidence for – from porn to Hinduism). 

I have a career history in rape centre management and criminal justice management of vulnerable and intimidated witness programmes, which is where I built my experience and knowledge of sexual violence, homicides, trafficking and other serious crimes across my courts. 

I launched a study last year, exploring the many different forms of victim blaming women and girls can experience. Over 700 people responded. My other recent studies have included interviewing women who have been blamed for rape and abuse, interviewing therapists and support workers who work with women who blame themselves for being abused or attacked and a complex study in which I developed and validated a new psychometric measure of victim blaming of women. 
I honestly cannot express how much whataboutery I get. 

Here are some real examples: 

‘Don’t you think you’re being sexist by only writing about women in this article?’

‘This article is good but where are your studies on men?’ 

‘I don’t condone murder but don’t you think you are gender biased, only caring about the murders of women?’ 

‘You can tell the psychologist who wrote this study is a sexist bitch who hates men’

‘This study was ridiculous. All you care about is women! What about men?’

‘You should have your PhD removed. This is so sexist. None of your research is about men.’

‘By only caring about women, you basically say that all men are rapists.’

‘This is great Jessica! But I wonder if you can now build one of these for boys and men and why they aren’t included in the first place?’

‘Why do you only focus on women? Men can get abused as well, you know!’

‘What about men, cunt?’

Honestly, I could go on forever and ever. 

In fact, I did one study where there was a free text question at the end and a whopping 9% of respondents chose to use that box to criticise me for not researching men. I say whopping because the free text box didn’t even ask them a question about that and 63 people still managed to use the box to whack in some ‘whataboutery’. 
Not only that but a further 14% (over 90 people) left comments that were just plain nasty or abusive. One guy told me that my work was shit and he hopes I fail my PhD. And then left his full name and job title. He was an academic at a university. In my field. He even put some kisses on. 
And what perplexes me about all of this, is that I have no such experiences of running TEF. 

I can’t tell you about the hundreds of messages or tweets we get asking ‘what about women?’ – because it’s never happened. 

I don’t have any stories about the times we got sent a tonne of abuse when we conducted research with general public in the community about male mental health stigma – because it’s never happened. 
I can switch over to the TEF twitter account right now and write literally anything about men and nothing bad will ever happen. Our Facebook page has thousands of followers and we never get threats, abuse or whataboutery. 

Fair enough, my Twitter is currently at about 4.5k followers but my teeny tiny Facebook page is only on a few hundred followers and I get between 10-20 abusive messages and comments a week – almost exclusively comments about me focusing on women and girls – which usually results in me being called a ‘fat, ugly feminist cunt’ or something along those eloquent lines. 


Recently this has all caused me to reflect. 

Why don’t I get any abuse when I speak and write about men and boys? 
Why am I hailed? 

Why did we win 6 charity awards and over £300k in the first 18 months of operation? 

Why did I end up on every TV channel and radio in the UK? Why can I launch studies and campaigns and videos and appeals for TEF about male mental health and receive ZERO whataboutery comments?

And why do I get shouted down if I even dare post one tweet about violence against women or rape statistics or murders of women by partners? 

Why do I get hundreds of messages and tweets every week asking me:
‘But what about men?’ 

And actually, this isn’t rocket science. This is uncomfortable but it’s real talk:

Women are socialised into their gender roles (gender roles are harmful, narrow, stereotypical characteristics and expectations assigned to males and females to conform to a societal norm) to not even possess a shred of the sense of entitlement that men have. Women do not read a campaign about male mental health or male abuse or male cancers and furiously tweet back ‘what about women, you cunt?!’ because they didn’t think about themselves when they read it. They didn’t see the campaign as two fingers up to women.

Perfect example: Movember. 


Have you EVER in your life seen women kicking off that Movember is sexist? Or that the campaign should include women? Or that focusing on testicular cancer is exclusionary? No. Have you fuck. 

Second perfect example: Male suicide rates. 

We know that the leading cause of death in young men aged 18-35 is suicide. This is the strongest symptom of a patriarchal society where emotionless males struggle to cope with trauma and feelings, can’t open up, don’t feel safe to talk and become completely overwhelmed by emotions they are taught are ‘feminine’, which further induces shame and stigma. 
In all my years I have never seen women jump on those campaigns yelling ‘women commit suicide too, you know!!’ Or ‘what about women?’ 

Switch it over. Women’s marches. Pussy hats. IWD. Counting dead women. VAWG strategies. Women’s health screening. Women’s reproductive health. Women’s mental health. Rape campaigns. #metoo. 

There is ALWAYS someone saying ‘what about men though?’ under all of those issues. It’s as sure as taxes and death. 

Like a depressing new catchphrase nobody wants:

There’s only three things you can be certain of in life: taxes, death and some randomer yelling ‘what about men?’ every time you talk about women’s issues.’



‘Whataboutery’ comes from a place of misogyny. An arrogant, derailing technique used to respond to a campaign, video, research study, intervention, organisation or communication that screams ‘I don’t care about women, talk about men!!’ 
And the proof is in the pudding for me. Because when I do all those things with a focus on boys and men, I’m a fucking hero. But when I do all of those things and focus on girls and women, I’m a fat, ugly feminist cunt. 

So I need to explain something else. This is not about equality. ‘Whataboutery’ has nothing to do with equality. It’s not about reminding us that men suffer too. Social issues aren’t equal. 

When I write a tweet about women being murdered or raped, I didn’t forget men. I didn’t forget they could be murdered or raped. I didn’t accidentally miss them off my tweet. I simply CHOSE to talk about the experiences of females. It is not helpful, or clever, or promoting ‘equality’ to write to a researcher specialising in women’s studies and tell her in three paragraphs why she should focus on men. 

It is not useful to ‘send a gentle reminder than men can get raped too, you know’. 
If you’re reading this and you know you have done this to someone, please think twice before doing it again. It’s not helpful. It’s derailing. 
We do not need to centre men in every conversation we have. Women and girls are valid entities, independent from men.
We need to get to a point where we can talk about women’s issues and get the same level of respect we get when we talk about men’s issues. 
Until then, your ‘Whataboutery’ is unwelcome here. 


What about that? 




Written by Jessica Eaton 

@JessicaE13Eaton 

My free videos at http://www.victimfocus.org.uk

My new book is out in September 2018 – go to http://www.victimfocus.org.uk/thelittleorangebook for the teaser! 

How to protect children from chicken nugget related sex offences

How to protect children from chicken nugget related sex offences

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

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

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

So how does this argument link to chicken nuggets?

Well:

2017-12-08 (2)

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

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

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

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

2017-12-08 (3)

I know, I know. Stupid right?

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

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

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

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

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

This maybe?

2017-12-08 (5)

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

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

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

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

With DVDs about chicken nuggety dangers, of course!

2017-12-08 (6)

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I will never eat chicken nuggets again”

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

“I will become a vegan”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Would they create websites and posters about chicken nuggets?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.victimfocus.org.uk

Tweet: @JessicaE13Eaton

‘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: 

http://www.victimfocus.org.uk/nomorecsefilms/4594134271 

Email me: jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

Tweet: @Jessicae13Eaton

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

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

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

My #nomoreCSEfilms campaign went viral so fast.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Written by Jessica Eaton

Jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

@Jessicae13eaton

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The underpinning assumption with these films are:

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Psychologists, I am writing to you for two reasons:

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

I propose the hashtag #nomoreCSEfilms

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

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

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

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