#CSEDay18 Blog – How the field of CSE has changed in the last 12 months and where it’s going next 

#CSEDay18 Blog – How the field of CSE has changed in the last 12 months and where it’s going next 

Content warning for discussion of child sexual abuse, rape, assault and victim blaming 

Last year I typed out the words ‘The entire field of child sexual exploitation (CSE) is underpinned by victim blaming’ and tweeted it. Like everything that comes out of my brain in this field, some loved it and some didn’t.

For #CSEDay18 – I am writing this blog. It’s for the thousands of people who follow my work and are helping to change the field (Yeah, you rock! Keep fighting!). It’s for the observers and readers who never contact me but read every word I say, go away and have a think (Thank you for reading and thinking!). It’s even for the people who read my blogs and then spend months trying to discredit me and my work (You probably won’t like this blog either).

This blog is about highlighting what has been achieved by encouraging the field to become more self-critical and more evidence based than ever before. Sometimes it’s hard to see the wood for the trees but the field has made serious progress in the last 12 months and shit’s starting to get exciting and innovative!
I’m a one-woman-whirlwind because something had to be done. I’m not the type to collude with, or observe bad practice or harm. Some people really like that and some people don’t. It doesn’t really matter if people like it or not. We have to put all that aside – because this is about stopping the blaming of children who are sexually abused and exploited.

So in one year, what has been achieved – and where is this movement going next?


1. Influencing the withdrawal of CSE risk assessment toolkits 
I remember how pissed off people were when I started talking about CSE toolkits not working. When I started pointing out that it’s technically impossible for a boy to score as a high as a girl because the tools are female centric and that black and Asian kids are not identified using these tools, based on white teens. When I started saying that the categories made no sense and the indicators were evidence of harm already occurring to the child. However, we are a year on and people are really starting to get behind this now. Everywhere I go in the UK, more and more local authorities and national charities are realising that the tools don’t work – not only do they not actually work as they say they do but they blame children for being sexually exploited, abused, raped and trafficked by adults. Whether it’s ticking a box that says ‘sexualised dress’ as a ‘factor’ for CSE or whether it’s calling a child ‘high risk’ after she’s already been raped – it’s a mess. We have to face it. None of it makes a jot of sense and more and more influential organisations and individuals are spreading the word that we should not be using these tools. Lots of areas are ready to withdraw them for good and I am working with certain senior organisations to help everyone to withdraw them safely.

And loud and clear for the people creating and rolling out these tools with no empirical, independent evaluation – you should know better and you have the money to do better; so do better.


2. #nomoreCSEfilms campaign 
That’s right, if I hadn’t pissed off enough people, then I accidentally created the #nomoreCSEfilms campaign (because I didn’t understand how to use hashtags and then everyone else started tweeting it lmfao) which led to hundreds of people writing to me about their experiences of harm from CSE films. Even though I had spent years being totally confused about why anyone would show a film of a child being raped to a child who has been raped, I had never had the chance to safely ask children about it. Plenty of professionals were telling the field that children thought watching child rape was really helpful (not surprising that these are the people still trying to sell and share these ‘resources’). One day last year, I listened to a completely organic conversation between children of different ages and sexes as they discussed their experiences of being made to watch films and drama that impacted them negatively. Very negatively. Even resulting in self harm and panic attacks.
That was enough for me. The first rule of our jobs is ‘do no harm’. These films had never been tested, evaluated or had any ethical approval and yet were (and still are in some cases) being used with tens of thousands of children.
Thankfully, the campaign really took off and influenced thousands of practitioners and organisations to withdraw all use of CSE films with immediate effect – to protect children from the potential of any further harm. Local authorities, police forces, national charities, residential units, private companies all wrote to me or called me in to help them stop using these resources with children. Two production/drama companies even commissioned me to help them rewrite and edit their work so they could make sure their resources were not harming children and were being tested properly before use. The CSE films report ‘Can I tell you what it feels like?’ was read by thousands of people and sparked at least 4 MSc dissertations and 2 PhDs to my knowledge. Thanks to thousands of my followers, to professionals in my networks and to people I have never even met – we have made such an impact this year that very soon, showing children a film of child abuse as an ‘intervention’ or ‘preventative’ method will be a thing of the past. Like frontal lobotomies of traumatised and oppressed people. We look back on it and think ‘what the fuck were we thinking?’ CSE films will forever go down in history as one of those things and soon, no child will be shown films of child rape, abuse and murder as an intervention.


3. CSE is CSA 

Yep, another way of pissing off people who claim to be specialists in CSE is to remind them that CSE is actually just CSA and that describing CSE as an ‘exchange’ is just victim blaming. Nice, subtle, hygienic, palatable victim blaming. I started to question why CSE was defined differently to CSA when I was sitting discussing cases with people from around the country – and they all sounded a lot like child sexual abuse – and yet they didn’t seem to see the overlap. In fact, I noticed that CSE was being used instead of ‘rape’ or ‘sexual assault’ or ‘grooming’ or ‘abuse’ or ‘online abuse’ …and the acronym was becoming meaningless. What really peaked me was when I asked professionals what the difference between CSE and CSA was and all they could give me was media stereotypes about massive Asian gangs and teenage white girls. Not only that, but I watched over the years as experienced and skilled social workers were told they weren’t ‘specialist’ enough to do direct work in CSE and they had to pass it to the ‘specialist CSE team’ (who had been given 2 days of CSE training and gripped their CSE films and CSE toolkits for dear life because they were shit scared as well). What happens when you create a new form of abuse, that’s actually a very well researched and documented form of abuse and tell everyone it’s new and it’s on the rise?
Well, you get mass panic and then you get vultures swooping in and claiming to have all the answers having never actually read anything from the 4-5 decades of child sexual abuse literature we already have. You get people reinventing the wheel. You get politicians saying that we need to invest money into understanding CSE whilst completely ignoring CSA. You get people deskilling social workers and then selling their skills back to them with resources and training that’s based on anecdotes.
When I struck out on my own, I made sure that I was always reminding everyone from the general public to the heads of authorities that CSE is CSA and that by overcomplicating it, we had caused a victim stereotype in CSE that meant we were missing thousands of cases and mishandling the ones we already had. Not only this, but intrafamilial CSA became a thing of the past – everyone stopped talking about it. To the point where I now have authorities calling me to say that their staff have had 6 years of constant input on CSE and are now failing intrafamilial abuse victims as they’ve had no training or resources in CSA for years. Now, a year on – more and more authorities and national charities are moving back to CSA. I know the organisations who have set themselves up to be the font of all knowledge in CSE are reading this and are probably somewhere between furious and shitting it but this HAS to be what is best for children, even if you have to change your services or eat a bit of humble pie. Loads of services are already doing it and have done it very well actually – so what’s the point in insisting that CSE is a separate and different phenomena to CSA?


4. ‘Risks’ and ‘vulnerabilities’ in CSE are just more victim blaming of children 
This one takes longer to unlearn and I am just finishing some of my most influential work on this. I must also say that it was RiP Director Dez Holmes who first believed in me when I said ‘I don’t think vulnerabilities or risks cause CSE, I think sex offenders cause CSE. Assessing risks and vulnerabilities of the child simply detracts from the fact that an adult is abusing them. I don’t think the evidence does actually show us that these vulnerabilities or risks lead to CSE.’ Dez and RiP as an organisation are extremely person-centred and evidence based and I was taken seriously. That’s how it ended up in the published revised evidence scope. That’s how it started influencing hundreds of organisations this year and last year.

However, it’s not easy to unpick embedded learning about risk and vulnerability. Many practitioners are taught that the child is targeted by a sex offender because of their vulnerabilities or risk taking behaviours and that by changing the child, changing their characteristics, personalities, behaviours and vulnerabilities, the sex offender will not abuse them. If you think that sounds a bit fluffy that’s because you’re right. Sex offenders who are abusing children do not stop abusing children because you’ve stopped the child wearing the ‘sexualised dress’ you didn’t like (which is usually crop tops and skinny jeans these days. Sounds like rape myths to me but hey-ho…)

The fact is, children can have ten vulnerabilities and still not be abused by anyone. Conversely, children can have zero vulnerabilities and still be abused. This theory that vulnerabilities somehow lead to CSE holds no water and yet we use it to judge children and their parents. All of our interventions are based on this deficit model of the child causing their own abuse.

Thankfully, this year is different and more and more organisations and practitioners are beginning to understand that the only person to blame for CSE and CSA is the sex offender. It does not matter how ‘vulnerable’ that child was, it was never ever their fault or their responsibility.


5. Trauma informed practice over educative responses to CSE
Over the years, standard practice responses to CSE have been raising awareness and then teaching the child about grooming, consent, healthy relationships, e-safety and some other useless shit you don’t want to hear about if you’re being abused every day.
I know that sounds harsh but we have to be more self critical. So many practitioners are being told to show children resources or teach them about E-safety and are then pulling their hair out because none of it is working the the child is still being sexually abused every day. If you were being trafficked and raped, given drugs or threatened not to tell – do you really think a professional sitting you down and telling you about consent or e-safety would change all of that for you? Even if you sat there and thought ‘oh shit, what’s happening to me isn’t consensual’ – how would you have the power to escape the abuser? Just because you now know that what is happening to you is wrong doesn’t make you powerful enough to leave abuse. After all, you’re a kid.

The problem is, that in CSE, education has been seen as the magic bullet. ‘If you educate children on CSE and grooming, they will be able to spot the signs and protect themselves from abuse.’ STOP. Stop and say that sentence to yourself again. No. It’s wrong. It’s victim blaming. Education is brilliant, I support sex and relationships education from the earliest age possible – but I’m also realistic enough to know that education won’t protect a child from a sex offender who is determined to manipulate them. You can’t put that level of responsibility on a child. It’s victim blaming.


All over the UK, specialist commissioned CSE services are paid to deliver 6-8 weeks of direct work with children who are at ‘medium-high risk’ of CSE (roughly translates to: already being abused, see other blogs for more detail). Those 6-8 sessions are educative in nature and the majority of all CSE victims receive little to zero therapeutic support in their processing of the sexual violence or their recovery long term.

When children disengage from the educative sessions, they are seen as problematic and can end up in trouble – sometimes even blamed for going back to the abuser. When children start acting out or start self harming – they are seen as mentally ill or disordered. When children withdraw from school and friends because of the impact of repeated rapes, we get all confused about why they hate school all of a sudden.
There has been very little trauma informed work in CSE at all over the years – and children have been penalised and diagnosed with psychiatric disorders simply for showing completely understandable trauma responses to extreme distress.

Last year I started to really push the messages about trauma, social models of mental health, anti-labelling and understanding sexual trauma in children. Hundreds of organisations and professionals have now changed their entire ethos of working with children – having gained vital knowledge and empathy for children who are showing extreme behaviours – which they now understand to be coping mechanisms or the expression of extreme distress – rather than behavioural problems or disorders.
This is a massive leap forward and there are influential organisations and large national charities now changing their practice towards a completely trauma informed, child centred way of working.


So there you have it – one year makes a massive difference. 

#CSEDay18 will come and go but people like me and others in this movement will stay. The people who follow and agree with my work will stay. We are more than people realise. I’m the mouthy one doing all the speeches and the writing but thousands of people stand behind me. We will keep fighting the blaming of children who have been sexually abused. We will keep challenging untested and unethical practices with children. We will spread the word about trauma informed working. We will stop the use of prescriptive, untested risk assessments on children. We will challenge the victim stereotypes and the perpetrator myths.

Change should not be viewed as scary or challenging – it should be viewed as growth and evolution. We have made some huge mistakes in CSE but they are fairly easy to put right. We will make mistakes in the future too – and then we will be reminded by someone that there are better ways of working and we will stop, think, and then improve. Our theories, knowledge and practice will keep changing and keep developing over time. Now is not the time to stay static, clinging to old, untested ways of working. Children deserve the highest quality and the most evidence based way of working that we can possibly give to them – ways of working in which their needs and their potential is put first.

It’s been almost a year since I wrote that tweet and after a busy year, we are getting somewhere. Momentum is huge. Potential is enormous. Maybe next year I will write to you and tell you that the victim blaming of children who have been sexually abused is almost completely wiped out of professional practice, the toolkits are in the bin, CSE films got banned and children have access to ongoing therapeutic support.

Where is this movement going next? Who knows? 

(Okay that’s a lie, I know exactly where it’s going and it’s fucking epic.) 


Written by Jessica Eaton

Tweet @Jessicae13Eaton

Email jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

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

#IWD2018 – Are women victims, survivors, none or both… and does rape really make us stronger?

#IWD2018 – Are women victims, survivors, none or both… and does rape really make us stronger?

CW: rape, mental health, trauma, violence

Written by Jessica Eaton and Anon

8th March 2018 – International Women’s Day


I would like to dedicate this special edition blog to all of the women and girls who never felt like a survivor, who don’t like the word victim and are searching for a way to understand who they are and how they feel after sexual violence. To the women and girls who live with the effects of abuse and rape, navigating their way through the narratives of how a female ‘should’ behave and ‘should’ recover after sexual violence. Love to you all.

I would also like to express my admiration for the young woman who wrote the letter to me, and the woman who supported her to do so. I hope I have done a good job presenting your pertinent questions and your rage. Rage on. 


How important is the label of ‘survivor’? What about ‘victim’? What about the narrative that ‘what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’? What about the message women are given, that being raped or abused somehow makes them a better person in the long run, having lived through and ‘survived’ such traumas?

These are not neutral words and phrases, they are laden with meaning, politics, promise, religion, belief and culture. People from one side claim that we should be using the word ‘survivor’ – people from another side claim that we should be recognising victimhood. The battle of linguistics and empowerment after male violence rages on.

For International Women’s day, I am privileged to present and discuss the outstanding writing of a young woman who wrote a letter to me (below) on the 28th January 2018.

I was checking my emails back in January when I came across an email from this young woman, who had been raped and abused; she asked me to read her writing and whether I would publish it for her. As I read, I became enthralled, as I am sure you will. Her writing is clear, her thoughts are punchy. She argues about some things I have been wrestling with in my own writing and in my own PhD. What does our language tell us about women who are raped? What does it tell us about the man who raped her?

For a long time now, I have felt uncomfortable with both ‘survivor’ and ‘victim’. When I started to write up my PhD, I wondered what word I should use. Rather than taking a guess, I started to search the literature for explorations of linguistics in rape and sexual violence.

There is considerable debate around the way that women are described following sexual violence.

Are they a ‘rape victim’ or are they a ‘rape survivor’?

‘Rape victim’ is generally argued to be disempowering, static and negative for the recovery of the woman (Hockett & Saucier, 2015) and focusses wholly on the negative experience and consequences. Campaigners and academics proposed that changing the language to ‘rape survivor’ empowers the woman, is more future-focussed and elicits less blame responses than ‘victim’.

However, the reality is that the experiences and psychological state of women after rape cannot be contained within the dichotomy of ‘victim or survivor’ – trauma, and humans, are much more complex than these two labels.

For example, work by Maria Lugones (2003) in line with the feminist humanist perspective, argued that women often identified as one of the labels, the other, both or neither. It often changes throughout their lives, too.

When I speak about this, I often teach professionals that they should not attempt to define women. They should not tell a woman who feels like a victim of her rapist that she is a survivor. They should not tell a woman who feels like a survivor of sexual trauma, that she is a victim. There is also no continuum a woman should move across – she doesn’t start off as a victim and then become a survivor – this is simply untrue.

And yet, here are just some examples I found online:

Women spend decades processing and exploring what happened to them. They may well feel like a victim for years, then eventually start to identify with the word ‘survivor’ – but what happens when the ‘survivor’ starts being triggered by something new, or has nightmares again? What happens when she suddenly feels like a ‘victim’ again? Has she somehow gone backwards in our expectations of her recovery? Is she failing?

What about the women who strongly argue that they are victims of repeated, serious crimes. Trafficking. FGM. Rapes. Child abuse. Exploitation. They argue that they don’t feel like a survivor, because their traumas have changed their lives forever. Are they lesser because they don’t feel like a survivor? What if they never feel like a survivor? What’s wrong with that?

And what about the narrative around the rape making her stronger? Making her a better person? Making her more resilient? Where does that leave her? This is something the young woman wrote to me in January. Was the rape a gift? Was the rape bestowed upon her?

How does that position the guy who raped her? She writes to me:

What does this tale of perseverance say to our rapist? That his dick made us stronger? That we have him to thank for our fortitude and our survivor mentality? That he has somehow bestowed upon us the ability to transcend adversity and find tranquility. That the grit and courage we so powerfully embody wouldn’t exist if he hadn’t raped us?

And she is right. What does this mean? Even in rape, he is positioned as the giver of resilience and newly found courage. She has every right to be so angry at this narrative that women are fed. Are we supposed to thank male violence for making us who we are today? Are we supposed to be grateful that women are raped and abused, because it made them stronger?

In her letter to me, this tenacious young woman talks about trauma recovery too. She questions the rhetoric of traumas making us bolder and better in the future and the assumption that everyone moves towards recovery, in some sort of linear fashion, through some imaginary stages. It reminds me of all of the ‘stages of recovery’ models. The ‘stages of grief’ models. The ‘stages of recovery from abuse’ models. Why do they all go in a line? Why are they all so straight and pretty and simple? Why are women supposed to move from one, to the other, to the other, nice and steady? From denial, to anger, to sadness, to blah blah blah all the way to acceptance and then to survivor. Survivor is the goal isn’t it? Can’t be a victim, must be a survivor. Can’t stay angry too long, must get to acceptance of your abuse. And all the arrows on those models flow in one direction – forward. Never backwards, or sideways, or a massive scribble. We can’t possibly flow those ways, because then we are failing in trauma recovery.

And what happens to the women who struggle? Rightly so. What happens to the women who are too scared to get back into a relationship? The women who are too scared to go to the shops alone? The women who have flashbacks during sex? Well, we know what is happening to those women – they are told they are mentally ill or have personality disorders. They are known as ‘troubled’ or ‘unstable’. Scores of women and girls with long sexual trauma and abuse histories are being told that their personality is disordered or they have a mental health issue because they are not recovering in line with our white, western, elitist, medicalised models. Their traumas took too long for the models. Their trauma recovery time limit expired, didn’t it?

So, enough of my thoughts. Read the words of this brilliant young woman and think about the way we are fed social norms of ‘survivor’ and ‘recovery’ – and the way we are taught that living through rapes and abuse make us better women.


Dear Jessica

I am not thinking of one time, or one person. I am thinking of hundreds of times, and god knows how many people. How many men. How many… Rapists.                

 Mute. That is the best way to describe it. It feels like someone is strangling me from the inside. All of those people that treated me like a ‘thing’ have their hands clenched round my voice, round my neck, gripping tightly. Gut-wrenching and head spinning; it feels like the air inside my body has gone.

It feels like you have been thrown into a whole new dimension. Everything is the same, but nothing is the same. Things keep moving, people keep living but you have stopped. You don’t keep going.

You’re just there. You see things, people and yourself in a very different way. You can’t get back to ‘normal’ because you have lost your normal. Normal meant trusting, normal meant not being harmed. You now know it can happen to you – this world doesn’t feel safe. I don’t feel safe.

 I kept quiet. My voice vanished. I learnt to blend into the background. To be invisible. I did not learn to do this at the hands of the many who decided to harm me, those who decided I was worth nothing. But I got lost in the system, I was let down by the system. I spoke. With my voice feeling crushed, I shared the fact I was a victim. I felt vulnerable, but I did speak. I wasn’t believed. I was questioned. I was blamed. That added to another hand around my neck, clenching my voice tighter, persuading me to stay silent. My worth was confirmed. I was nothing and no one felt that I deserved help.

 My voice is becoming less restrained, as I learn that I can talk, I am believed and that I deserve help. But I am defined by nearly 20 years of abuse, 20 years of being told I am nothing. 

As a “victim” we are forced to define our pain. We get told to “heal” and this great weight of pressure is forced upon our shoulders to “move forward” and “let go of the past”. I have been told to survive. In fact, “survivor” has become the preferred label to describe our plight. A line has been drawn in the sand and we must choose, I am either a victim, drowning in this assumed weakness and frailty, or a survivor; proudly thriving in my newfound strength. But I cannot be both.

 Society has spoon-fed us the false assumption that we will all reclaim our trauma and go on to lead stronger, braver, bolder lives than we would have if we weren’t raped. Society is quick to encourage us to embrace the resolute tenacity of a survivor. It forgets that we’ve been bruised, beaten and penetrated, in every way a person can be. It forgets that healing takes time and that this isn’t just a heartache or a loss. “You are resilient”, they say. “You will rise from the ashes of your pain with more power than you ever knew you had”…


 What does this tale of perseverance say to our rapist? That his dick made us stronger? That we have him to thank for our fortitude and our survivor mentality? That he has somehow bestowed upon us the ability to transcend adversity and find tranquility. That the grit and courage we so powerfully embody wouldn’t exist if he hadn’t raped us?

 What does it say to the victims who don’t feel whole and healed? To those who still wake up screaming in the middle of the night plagued by memories of their abuse. To those triggered by a sound or a smell or place. What does this jargon say to those who remain broken beyond repair, to those who haven’t publicly rebounded and come out the other side “proud of who they are.”

The unfortunate reality is that healing doesn’t have a distinguishable end. Healing is irreconcilable pain. It is instability and loss and grief and fear. It is shame so deep it pulls on every single part of your body, pushing every muscle down until you feel so small that you simply want to scrunch up as tight as possible and stay there – completely and utterly still. It is trauma that sleeps under your skin, only to manifest in ways you could never imagine, in ways that will stay with you your entire life.

Fear will follow you everywhere. Going for a smear test? Never happening. Even going to the Dr’s alone is a task that now appears unbearable. Changing in the changing rooms, feeling exposed – it feels sickening. Laying on your bed and waking in the night to see you’re in the exact position that you experienced the hurt. You panic. Scrunch up tight. Close your eyes and scream in your head that you would do anything, ANYTHING for this to simply vanish. Your trust in the world has been stolen.

Rape is not a singular thing, it doesn’t exist in a vacuum and it will never just be “something that happened”.

Written 28 January 2018 – Name protected

Thank you so much for reading.

In Solidarity, Jessica and Anon


From Broadband to Sex: The problem with teaching women to ‘Just Say No!’

From Broadband to Sex: The problem with teaching women to ‘Just Say No!’

Content warning for sexual assault, rape, victim blaming and awkward metaphors.


Since when did sexual propositions use the same techniques as the guy who tries to sell broadband to me as I walk through the high street?

You know the ones. I dread walking past them.

“Oh no. It’s those people who are going to try to sell me broadband… steer clear… steer clear…” I think frantically. Look busy. Look distracted. Stare at a shop window. Pretend to be on the…

“Hello there, miss! Have you got a moment to talk about your broadband?”

Oh shit, they got me. I blush and feel guilty that I don’t want to talk to them about broadband. I already have broadband. I am on my way to work. I don’t have time to talk about broadband right now. I wouldn’t buy it from a guy in the street anyway.

“Um I’m not interested at this time, thank you.” I mutter, embarrassed. I try to keep walking but he blocks my way. I know it won’t work.

He grins a big fake smile at me, “How do you know? You’ve not seen the deal yet!!”

Shit, I think.  “Please, I’m really not interested…” I pause and think of a reason why I am not interested, “Uhhh, I already have broadband!”

This one never works but I always try it.

“Ahhh I bet our broadband is better! We can double your speed!”

I can feel myself getting flustered and annoyed. I just want to get to work on time but he’s blocking my direction and walking in front of me whilst trying to hook me in.

I try again, “I’m really not interested, I’m really sorry. I just need to hurry as I need to get to work for 9am…”

He is not remotely concerned; he presses on.

“Ah that’s okay, this will only take 2 minutes. Will you give me two minutes? I can convince you in two minutes!”

This is getting awkward now. I need to leave, and he won’t stop talking to me.

“No, I am sorry, but I don’t have two minutes,” I reply, looking down at my feet in embarrassment and trying to edge away.

“Okay darling, one minute? I can do it in one minute if you like?”

Now I’m angry and I look him in the eye, “Look, I’ve told you a number of times. I’m not interested!”

His salesman smile drops into a frown. A frustrated frown.

“Whatever!” He snaps at me and walks off, clearly furious.

You might be thinking how familiar that sounds. You might also be thinking why I am talking about the broadband-guy in a blog about victim blaming.

Well, it occurred to me that we have a serious problem with women being able to say ‘No’  – and then not having to give a reason. This blog will explore the connotations and techniques of women not being able to assert that they just don’t want attention or sex.

It is extremely common for women to experience harassment, abuse or violence when they say ‘No’ to a relationship, unwanted attention or sex. 65% of women report experiencing street harassment from men, 23% had been sexually touched by someone in the street and 20% had been followed (stopstreetharassment.org, 2016). In 2017, a BBC survey revealed that over half of women had been sexually harassed by men in their workplace. Another example of violence when faced with a female saying ‘No’ is sexual assault and rape. RAINN report that 1 in 6 women report experiencing rape or attempted rape.

We also know this because women can usually reel off many instances of this happening to them, without even trying. I can guarantee that the thousands of women who read my blog have personal experiences of trying to say no, and their refusal being ignored.

I can think of some now, right off the top of my head:

  • In 2013 I was in a bar with my friend when a guy kept trying to touch me and put his arms around my waist. I didn’t know him, and I kept telling him to leave me alone. He ignored me and eventually I lost my temper and yelled at him to stop touching me so he grabbed me and bit my shoulder until I dropped to the floor. I think he ran off because when I managed to get up, he was gone.
  • In 2014, I was walking through my town centre when a man started telling me I was beautiful and sexy. I told him repeatedly that I wasn’t interested and asked him to go away. I told him I was married and so on. He didn’t care. Eventually, he got the message and responded by yelling at the top of his voice ‘I’m not interested in you, get away from me you dirty fat slag!’
  • In 2017, I was sexually attacked by a man I had never met on the night I celebrated creating the BOWSVA psychometric measure (irony, right?). I had gone out for dinner and wine with another academic to celebrate my results and months of hard work. A guy in his late forties kept hitting on me and I just asked him to leave me alone. Out of nowhere it seemed, he grabbed me and started to sexually assault me. He was so strong and I was so small compared to him. Whilst he assaulted me, he told me it was his birthday and he was entitled to me.

I know women reading this will be nodding, I know they will be thinking – yep, sounds familiar.

So, lets explore why ‘No’ doesn’t mean ‘No’. Then, we will discuss why this leads to victim blaming of women who experience sexual violence and abuse.

  1. Accept the damn compliment!

The first stage of sexual harassment is usually complimentary. Completely unwanted, but complimentary. You’re gorgeous. You’re sexy. You’re wonderful. You give them a hard on. Real romantic stuff like that. It’s quite common for women to become embarrassed and thank the guy. ‘Oh, thanks…’ or even just give an awkward smile.

‘Smile at the creep, maybe he will leave me alone. Keep walking. Don’t look back…’

So why do women do that? Why do women who receive completely unwanted comments about their bodies or their looks, thank the harasser or smile at them?

There are two main answers. The first is that women are taught that their looks are their greatest asset and that being complimented on having a sexually attractive body by Mr. Random is the pinnacle of female success. Therefore, a woman who is told by a passer-by that she’s hot or sexy, must accept that compliment, and be happy about it. In a hypersexualised society where sex sells and women are sold – this is the gold standard. Men just falling over themselves to tell you that they would ‘give you one’ is seen as evidence that you must be stunning, and you can’t expect men to be able to keep quiet when you are that tantalising. Can you?

The second answer is that women and girls are socialised into their gender role to be nice and polite, even when someone is being a complete bellend. Women who assert themselves are often called ‘aggressive’ or ‘bossy’, for example. Women are expected to be well mannered, ‘nice’ and pleasant to everyone at all times. Stepping out of that gender role box will result in her being reframed as an angry bitch.

  1. Apologising that you are not interested in them

Linked to the ‘nice, polite woman’ gender role stereotype, we have the awkward and embarrassed mutters of ‘I’m really sorry, but I’m not interested’ or ‘I’m really sorry but, no thank you.’ I’m struggling to understand why we are sorry… why are we sorry for them? Are we sorry for them? What are women apologising for when they say sorry to a guy like this:

“Eh up sexy, what’s your name then? Want a drink?”

“Ummm, I’m really sorry.. but.. I’m not interested.”

The answer? Women apologise in advance for saying no. Women are apologising for contradicting male entitlement. The man who has approached her in this way expects her to be flattered, to take the compliment, to want the drink. Women know that saying ‘no’ is risky business, so they apologise before they say no. They convey apologies for not being interested in the man, despite the fact that they don’t owe them a thing. Not even an apology. Or a response.

  1. Apologising again, and then saying ‘I have a boyfriend/I am married!’

This one is really important. This one is a real kicker. When some men hear ‘No’ and continue to persist, the next stage is to use this line. Some women say it because it is true. Some women say it when it is not true. But why do they say it to men who persist? And more concerningly, why does it often work?

“Oh come on, don’t you want a drink? You’re gorgeous!”

“Umm, sorry but I have a boyfriend…”

The depressing answer to this is wrapped up in ownership of females and male competition. When a woman says ‘no’, it is rarely enough for a man to stop harassing or pursuing her, and the woman knows that. But when a woman replies that she is ‘taken’ by a boyfriend or husband, many men accept that she ‘belongs’ to another man – and the ‘no’ becomes validated. Interestingly, I know lesbian women who are in relationships or married to other women who also say that they have a boyfriend or husband because they have learned that revealing that they are gay and have a female partner just makes the situation worse. Some lesbians have learned that the ‘male ownership’ lie works – and men leave them alone. You know, rather than asking them for a threesome.

Think about it. If you are a woman, how many times have you used this line of refusal when your first three ‘no’s didn’t work? If you are a man, how many times have women told you that they have a boyfriend or husband to stop you from sexually pursuing them? Why was the presence (real or imagined) of another man, the factor that made you realise that she wasn’t interested?

Why was an imaginary boyfriend or husband more authoritative than her first three ‘no’s?

  1. I’m better/fitter/nicer/richer than him!

However, what happens when ‘I’m sorry but I have a boyfriend/husband’ doesn’t work? Personally, I have been married for 8 years and I know I have used this hundreds of times to stop a man who was making me uncomfortable (before I became acutely aware that this was sort of like saying ‘another man already owns me so…’). I remember one guy who completely destroyed my ‘I’m married’ response to his sexual advances by saying ‘So am I!’

At that point I just stared at his wedding ring and thought, ‘Married professional, in your forties, probably have children with her, she’s probably at work or at home – and you’re here trying to convince me to have sex with you. You charmer.’

I remember trying to joke with him that if we are both married then we are both committed to other people and that he shouldn’t be hitting on me at all. He told me that his wife would never find out and that he would be better in bed than my husband. He told me he was successful and probably richer than my husband too. Then he tried to put his hand up my skirt.

So why the competition? It literally becomes an ego fight with your husband or boyfriend – that they can be better than him. Again, women are put into a position where ‘no’ means nothing. They have already said no repeatedly, then they have tried to assert that they are in a relationship and now a man is trying to convince them that they are a better man than the one they are already with. But why do they do this? Well…

  1. Persistence pays off!

Oh do I hate chick flicks. (Insert gif of me burning all chick flick DVDs). I don’t even know why they are called chick flicks. We should rename them ‘sexual harassment’ flicks’. We have a massive pop culture of teaching men and boys that when women are not interested in them, just try harder. When a woman knocks you back, she wants you really. When a girl tells you she’s taken, just try harder to be better than the guy she is with. If she ignores you, turn up at her house a few times. If she avoids you, follow her to places and make grand gestures. If she dumps you, just call her a few hundred times and turn up at her door with massive bunches of flowers until she realises that she does want you after all.

Chick flicks are just hundreds of hours of men trying to ‘woo’ women who are not interested in them. The plots are generally based on this simple formula:

  • Woman
  • Man
  • Man likes woman
  • Woman does not like or does not know man exists
  • 85 minutes of man ‘persisting’ or ‘trying to win her over’
  • Woman is harassed into loving the man
  • Woman suddenly has epiphany at the end of the film and realises that this was the man she wanted all along, even if throughout the film, he has been a complete dong.

How are women supposed to be able to say ‘no’ safely when we have created an expectation that men are supposed to persist and keep trying until she realises that she really wants him? ‘No’ becomes meaningless if persistence is king.

  1. When women say no, what they really mean is ‘yes’

The outcome of all of these examples and gender role stereotypes, is that women only say no so as not to appear ‘easy’. They say no, but really, they mean ‘persuade me!’

In the literature in forensic psychology, and certainly in my own work, we call this ‘token resistance’ – the concept that the woman is resisting sex or attention as a tokenistic gesture to show that she is not easy or ‘playing hard to get’ instead of actually meaning ‘no’. Garcia (1999) found that women were only perceived as ‘really resisting’ when they showed serious displays of distress such as crying or trying to slap the man – not only this, but the females in the scenarios who asserted themselves in these ways were rated much more negatively by both men and women than the women who did not. Many other types of sexual refusal in the scenarios were perceived as ‘token resistance’. Therefore, there became a dichotomy in which women who say ‘no’ gently and carefully or in a socially acceptable way within their gender role were perceived as engaging in ‘token resistance’ but the women who asserted themselves by shouting, crying or slapping the man in the scenario were rated negatively for asserting themselves in that way.

Ergo, women who say ‘no’ cannot win.


Why is this linked to victim blaming?

I have recently finished writing a large literature review of victim blaming and one of the sections I have written is on ‘sexual refusal’ – the ability and opportunity to say ‘no’ to sex or sexual advances. I explored a curious set of articles that discussed or tested women’s ‘sexual refusal skills’ and I even found that women and girls in universities and colleges were being trained in ‘sexual refusal’ – which is still a common feature of assertiveness training and date rape prevention training (Kitzinger & Frith, 1999). There have been further studies as recent as 2011, that have examined how ‘effective’ women’s refusals are when they have already been a victim of rape or sexual violence (Yeater et al., 2011). I found a number of theories that argued that women who are repeatedly revictimised, raped or abused have ‘poor sexual refusal skills’.

I wrote in my own literature review that some of the conclusions about ‘sexual refusal’ and women’s ‘ability to say no’ sounded a lot like victim blaming. In one blog, I have just briefly demonstrated how hard it is to have your ‘no’ taken seriously by a determined man in a society that champions his persistence to get you in bed, even when you have told him eleven times that you don’t want to. I wondered, as I wrote, why there is so much emphasis on women building better sexual refusal skills and more and more campaigns that teach women and girls to ‘just say no!’

Women are saying no. They are saying no once, twice, fifteen, fifty times. Saying ‘no’ is not the problem here. It’s the receipt of the ‘no’ by the man who cannot take it – that is the problem.

Telling women to ‘just say no’ better is victim blaming.

Just like the broadband-guy, who couldn’t take no for an answer, who persisted and made me feel embarrassed and harassed in the street – we have created a space where women can certainly try to say no, but it doesn’t mean anything. That’s why #metoo went viral. That’s why millions of women identified with it. That’s why hundreds of women have been sexually harassed in Hollywood.

‘It’s a compliment!’ – they’ve got us smiling and thanking guys that tell us we have great tits.

‘Sorry, but I’m not interested’ – they’ve got us apologising for not wanting sexual advances.

‘Sorry, but I’m married’ – they’ve got us apologising that we already belong to another man.

Men who do this, here is a handy cut-out-and-keep table for you to understand what women mean when they say no:

What women say What women mean
‘I’m not interested’ I’m not interested
‘No’ No
‘Uhh thanks’ Shit, that was awkward
‘I have a boyfriend/husband/partner’ I’m not interested, and I am hoping this new tactic makes you go away
‘I’m sorry but…’ Oh god, I hope he doesn’t get angry that I’m about to say no to him
‘Leave me alone’ Leave me alone
‘Stop touching me’ Stop touching me


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

My new book, ‘The Little Orange Book’ is being released on the 25th September, click here to register your interest in the book or the launch event http://www.victimfocus.org.uk/the-little-orange-book/4594022624


Former child abuse detective supports #nomoreCSEfilms campaign – read her letter here

Former child abuse detective supports #nomoreCSEfilms campaign – read her letter here

Today, I received another letter to support the #nomoreCSEfilms campaign – this time, from a woman who worked as a detective specialising in child abuse. I now have 72 accounts of harm, 6 letters and 5 verbal accounts of CSE (child sexual exploitation) films harming children. Accounts come from children, adults, parents, psychologists, police officers, psychotherapists, youth workers, social workers and teachers.

Please stop using CSE films with children. I will soon publish every letter, every signature and every account in an open-access document. The document will be the first collection of evidence ever collected on the harm and trauma caused by practice using CSE films with children and families.

Thank you to Tamara who has chosen to give her full name and role details for this campaign.

Dear Jessica,

I became aware of your ‘#NoMoreCSEFilms’ campaign through social media, and I want to add my opinion as a former professional in the child protection arena.

I previously worked as a Police Officer on a Child Abuse Investigation Unit, and later as a Police Trainer for Detectives specialising in child abuse investigation and rape investigation.  As part of my own training (and the training I later delivered) we used a selection of these films – the two most popular being ‘My Dangerous Loverboy’ and ‘Sick Party’.  These films are notably graphic, and would sometimes result in adults (yes, even supposedly unemotional, robotic Police officers!) turning away or walking out.  To have to watch a realistic film of a young girl being repeatedly raped in a dirty shed by numerous men isn’t easy viewing for anyone.  This was several years ago when these films were fairly new, given the content I would never have considered showing them to a child – to find out that they are I find, quite frankly, horrific.

I have worked with victims of rape and sexual abuse.  I have interviewed numerous children who have been subjected to horrific crimes and can say that the Criminal Justice process, the constant questioning, the things that we HAVE to ask to make it ‘clear’ for a jury that the child knows what they are talking about, the way we MAKE them spell out every little detail so that there can be no ambiguity is traumatic enough.  Add to that the inevitable questioning by parents, peers, associated victim-blaming…the thought that one of these films would be shown to a victim who has been through all of this on top of the original offence is beyond belief.  Then, I also found that these films are being shown to children in schools…some children who probably don’t even know what rape is, and some who are victims we don’t yet know about…for the sake of education?  These films are not encouraging reporting.  They are encouraging shame and embarrassment.  Yes, the obligatory disclaimer could be added before the film, but what child or teenager is going to leave the room and draw attention to themselves?  Of course they aren’t.  Even adults don’t.  If children are suffering in silence the point is that they are scared to come forward for fear of being blamed or not believed.  So they will sit through it. 

Traumatised if they do, traumatised if they don’t. 

I am a parent.  My 11 year-old daughter is aware of what sexual assault is.  However, I would never dream of thinking these films would be appropriate to show her, even in the safety of our living room.  In fact, If I did show her such a film and then she went to school and spoke about it, I wouldn’t be surprised to get a knock on the door from children’s services.  They are THAT graphic. 

Showing these films is not educational.  It is not therapeutic.  It goes against everything we know about the treatment of trauma.  So lets’ stop, think about it, and find another way.


Tamara Brabazon-Taylor

Former Child Abuse Investigation Detective


Please help me and hundreds of other professionals and parents to stop this practice in 2018. Here are some things you can do to help:

  • Stop buying, using or recommending CSE films
  • Boycott organisations and companies that sell and make CSE films – ask them for empirical evidence, proof of testing, proof of safety and proof that the films have been ethically and independently assessed by experts
  • Ask your local schools to stop using CSE films
  • Write to your local social services or police and crime commissioner
  • SIGN THE PETITION! http://www.victimfocus.org.uk/nomorecsefilms/4594134271
  • Meet with me or arrange a phone call to discuss how you can change your practice to remove all use of CSE films


Written by Jessica Eaton

Email: jessica@victimfocus.org.uk

Tweet: @JessicaE13Eaton

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


‘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.


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.


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.




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