Only last week I was listening to Baroness Helen Newlove, the Victims Commissioner, talking about the ‘voice of victims’ and how many victims of crimes still feel invisible and not truly ‘heard’.
Although I am aware there has been progress in how we support young people who are victims of child sexual exploitation (CSE), sadly, I also feel as a society we have a long way to go.
As national CSE awareness day approaches, I am reflecting on my own practice in supporting young people, and hearing their voices. I have supported many children and young people over the years who have experienced, or still experience, the trauma and effects of this horrendous abuse.
Sadly, child sexual exploitation can leave some young people with serious long-term emotional and physical effects.
All the young people I have worked with may not have initially disclosed the abuse; I have often heard professionals ask a victim why they didn’t tell anyone. However, these young people do tell us – but in a different way.
They may act violently or feel out of control. They may be missing from home or education. To try to cope with what is happening to them they may self-harm, use drugs and alcohol and push those trying to support them away. The abuse affects their whole lives and their whole ‘self’ emotionally and physically. It affects relationships with their families and their friends or peers.
Inside the shame, self-blame, fear and manipulation, they can feel isolated. Often violence from perpetrators is debilitating. Renowned researcher Finkelhor (1986) highlighted the powerlessness, stigmatisation, betrayal and sexual traumatisation a victim experiences.
As part of an organisation providing online and face to face counselling for young people, I am in the privileged position to be able to offer support to victims and ensure we enable young people to have a voice.
So on the March 18th, National CSE Awareness day, and every day, I will continue to pledge to truly hear the voice of the child. I would urge you to visit the NWG website to see and read about the amazing work being done across the country to #STOPCSE and to consider your own pledge to support young people.
XenZone Online Counsellor on Kooth and CSE Lead