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Gang-associated sexual exploitation and sexual violence

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1 Gang-associated sexual exploitation and sexual violence
Fiona Factor Institute of Applied Social Research University of Bedfordshire

2 Child Sexual Exploitation in Gangs and Groups (CSEGG)
October The Children's Commissioner set up a two year inquiry Phase 1 of the inquiry is now complete. The report in November 2012 indicated that professionals need to: be more aware of the indicators be better able to identify young women at risk of exploitation adjust their service provision to create conditions where girls are safely able to disclose information. This is what Phase 1 reported – final report in November 2013 All reports available via OCC website

3 UoB Research Funded by Office of Children’s Commissioner for England running alongside Inquiry
Gang-associated sexual violence and exploitation (SVE) Scale and nature Routes in Potential responses In-depth study in 6 research sites (anonymised) Multi-method approach Direct engagement with 190 young people:150 individual interviews & focus groups with 40; Focus groups with 70 professionals; Lit/policy/secondary data. Interim report November 12; Final report November 13 Methods: Using secondary statistical data as to known extent Interviews with 150 young people – ‘sex and relationships in gangs’; talk in third person. Focus groups with professionals – fill gaps, provide context, responses Focus groups with young people - responses

4 Ending Gang and Youth Violence Report - Nov 2011
Gang strategies focus on male gang perpetrators and victims Little hard data on women and girls affected by gang violence Involvement in criminal activity and subject to sexual exploitation Need to establish Women, Girls and Gangs working group There is a lot of activity, research and policy development at the moment – for example EGYV, SYC, YJB

5 Serious youth violence and girls
Serious youth and gang-related violence against children is a safeguarding and child protection issue. The role of the Safeguarding Children Boards is key to getting partnership commitment to the development of local strategies. YOTs should work with local partners to: identify young women at risk of serious youth violence provide an environment where young women are able to safely disclose information ensure local services are able to respond to identified risks and needs in a way that ensures the safety of young women and girls.

6 Definitions GANG: A relatively durable, predominantly street-based group of young people who (1) see themselves (and are seen by others) as a discernible group, (2) engage in a range of criminal activity and violence, (3) identify with or lay claim over territory, (4) have some form of identifying structural feature, and (5) are in conflict with other, similar, gangs’ (Pitts 2008; Centre for Social Justice 2009) Disconnect between how young people and professionals define gangs And how young people and professionals define CSE/SV – ‘sex and relationships; the good and the bad’

7 Definition of SVE Sexual exploitation: exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where a young person (or a third person) receives ‘something’ in return for involvement in some form of sexual activity (DSCF 2009). Sexual violence: incorporates any behaviour that is perceived to be of a sexual nature, which is unwanted or takes place without consent or understanding (NIO 2008). Still problematic and complex and we have struggles to explore what these terms mean in application and their usefulness So for example – where would peer on peer abuse sit? Is what we are talking about often child abuse?

8 Individual interviews
48% female; 52% male 13-28 years of age: half under 18 13 to 15 = 21%, 16 and 17 = 28% (49% children), 18 to 20 =28% 21-25 =21% 45% in education; 20% in training; 18% in employment; 15% NEET; 2% other 38% have had children’s services involvement 40% reported history of criminality Site representation ranged from 9% to 28% of overall sample

9 Nature of gangs Area-based Predominantly male Some female only gangs
Variable ethnic composition across different locales Raison d’etre and mode of operation varies across, and within sites

10 Routes into gang environment
Involvement of family or friends in gangs Normalisation of gang-involvement within social network Desire for a sense of belonging, status, power and/or respect Need for protection Disaffection with or disengagement from education Lack of training or employment opportunities Inadequate youth provision (particularly given the impact of recent cuts) Difficulties at home or in care To look at routes into gang-associated SVE, need to understand routes into gang environment Is it normalisation or a normative response? Difference known between right and wrong Is normalisation a coping / defensive mechanism or resignation to ‘that’s what happens around here’

11 A unique phenomenon? Reflects what we know about SVE in general:
Perpetrators are predominantly male, victims are predominantly female; It invariably takes place between people who are known to each other; and It is used as a means of boys and young men exerting power and control over girls and young women. Utilise existing structures/learning – CSE and sexual violence, domestic violence, gangs

12 Context: SVE in wider society
‘if we just go down the gang track we miss some real core issues of all young people’ (professional focus group) Lack of understanding re ‘consent’ and ‘healthy’ relationships Gradients of consent: social context within which consent given Powerlessness of young women in relationships – ‘ownership’ of females Normalisation of SVE and domestic violence in relationships Context of social media Violent language used to describe sex (battered, banged, beat) Co-presenting problems: alcohol, drugs, mental health issues etc. Victim-blaming Lack of understanding as to what constitutes SVE - predominant discourses around masculinity and femininity - confusion around consent and coercion

13 Context of gang-associated SVE (1)
Gender and gang-associated SVE Gendered assumptions about victims and perpetrators Incidences against young men, but information not forthcoming Different conceptualisation of incidences against males/females Lack of understanding as to what constitutes SVE - predominant discourses around masculinity and femininity - confusion around consent and coercion Gradients of consent Gender – need to more explicitly probe re males (starting asking specifically re this in interviews) – learning for practice. Sex is about respect and reputation for boys Boys get rated girls get slated/hated – male and female sexuality differently constructed 2. Lack of understanding of SVE - Hyper masculine environment – girls achieve status through association. ‘not really rape’ – persuade her confusion for both males and females challenges for professionals if young people do not identify it. 3. Have sex with one boy – available to all Gradients of consent – ‘lose right to say no’

14 Context of gang-associated SVE (2)
Hyper-masculine environment Young women viewed in terms of relationships to males Normalisation of violence Conflict mentality Relationship between role/status, perceived sexual availability and risk of SVE Risk unequally distributed: Relationship – sisters/girlfriends protected within gang but at risk from other gangs. Girlfriends experiencing DV and at greater risk if they try to end the relationship. Those who adopted masculine role at least risk. Links at most risk – viewed as sexual objects; used for sex but generally no protection in return. A sense of Real or perceived sexual availability Echoes of Weller’s work on next slide

15 Context of gang-associated SVE (3)
Roles determined by males; subsidiary status afforded to females Risk of SVE varies according to status within the gang environment: Sisters and other female relatives Gangster girl Girlfriends Links Also true of males Risk within the gang & risk from rival gangs Doesn’t usually affect others with no known gang association – different routes in for young people in area/out of area

16 ‘If she has a name and someone tries to sleep with her and she won’t let them, they know that she’s slept with loads of other people, they’ll force her into it. They would rape her. They would rape her, if you class that as rape, yeah...You’ve got girls like, one girl, I won’t say her name but if you go to [area] and say her name everyone will know her. She’s slept with everyone. Everyone. But it’s got to a point that cos she’s slept with so many people, when people see her it’s more forced onto her ‘Just touch it, man, just do that, just do this’ and then she’ll have to do it cos she’ll be scared’ (21 year old young man, ex-gang involved). Recently youth justice professional told me about a young man given a custodial sentence for rape and he did not know he was doing anything wrong.

17 Further risk of SV by girls who challenge violent peer group
Additional risk of SV for girls involved in violent peer groups Risk of sexual violence for all girls and young women Risk of sexual violence for girls associated with violent peer groups (Weller 2010) Outer circle – broad risks for all girls. Know from other work that high levels of SVE amongst young people generally – 1 in 3 young women and 1 in 6 young men reporting experience of partner sexual violence (Barter et al 2009) ICM poll – confusion around consent and coercion Middle circle – additional specific risks for girls who associate with violent peer groups – set up chicks, links, holding weapons etc. Inner circle – those who challenge the gender regime or internal rules – ending relationships or ‘snitching’ – may be punished and controlled through SVE.

18 In their own words... “I remember a girl. She wasn’t going out with someone but she like used to sleep with just one gang...and this other gang got her in like some, they seen her on the bus, dragged her off the bus, took her to someone’s house or whatever, made her suck all their dicks and all that. Yeah, and videoed it, telling her to say like she’ll piss on someone’s grave and all sorts...and I remember seeing her in like local and all the lads from the area were like switching her and she was like crying like, do you know what I mean? They made me do it, they had a knife to me and everything and I was like, I could tell that she weren’t lying“ (19 year old female)

19 In their own words “Cases of pressure in which like a girl will be in a situation where she’s probably with multiple males and they’re all up for it, but she’s not sure how to get herself out of the situation...Come on, you know you want to...They’re ultimately aware that they’re putting pressure on, but like I said, that’s their aim. Like when I said about boys, they want to have sex with as many people as they can. That’s their target. You know can we all have sex with her...they do understand that its not fair but if it goes ahead, then its by her choice because they’re not physically forcing her...If she actually says ‘no, I don’t want to do this’ then it won’t go ahead but if in her head she’s thinking I don’t want to do this, I don’t want to do this but she ends up doing it, then by all means she’s given her consent” (20 year old male)

20 In their own words... “She has decided she wants to go and have sex with someone but she may have to face the consequences of having sex with more than one person...She may not like it, she may like it, but that’s just what happens...It’s more common that you hear the girl is raped. She won’t say raped, but that she was taken advantage of or that other people got involved” (18 year old female) “It happens a lot. It could be eight guys and one girl...All having intercourse, taking turns really. More or less treating the girl like a piece of meat. Some of the guys will either give the girls drugs, spike her drug or get her absolutely wasted...I’ve known a girl that that happened to and she’s said ‘I don’t remember it so hey I’m just doing what I’m doing...people look at me as a slag so why not get treated like one” (19 year old female)

21 Gang-associated SVE against males
“I’ve seen videos of where you know like, there was a phase where the happy slapping was going around, where a group of boys ordered other boys to strip and take their clothes and make them say stuff into the camera, and just leave them there or told them they’ve got to walk home like that” (21 year old female) “I don’t know what they were thinking, but they forced a boy to give them oral sex and they raped him...and everyone in the whole area was like ‘what are you doing’ and now they’re outcasts, and some of them had big names (21 year old male) “I’ve done it to kids before, I’ve been saying ‘go in there, what’s up with you, here’s a girl, I’m finished so you can go in’ and he’s like ‘I’ll go in there in a minute’ and then you notice ‘em, like you can see in their eyes that they don’t want to go in...when I first like a beat a girl and that, I got like not peer pressure but it was like, that was, that was how I ever lost mine innit” (16 year old male)

22 Responding: Identification and reporting
Low levels of identification and reporting: Gangs systems historically focused on males Low levels of reporting of sexual violence in general Why not report: Resignation to, or normalisation of, such experiences – do not realise there is anything to report Fear of retribution or retaliation Judgment/fear of what others might think Previous negative perceptions of police and other stat. services Lack of confidence in the ability of police and other statutory services to offer adequate protection following a disclosure

23 Responding: current issues
Not actively looked for & not on agenda Data not collated Silo response: Gangs work predominantly male focused SVE work predominantly female focused & CSE services not picking up gang related cases Issue of short term funding & chasing funding streams Lacking longer-term response: ‘they may get immediate support from the authorities...but what about the one year, two year legacy after they’ve reported it and that support has gone away and then they’re left within the same community...having to face the people who they’ve reported on’

24 Messages for practitioners – Victimisation and agency
Importance of recognising both to offer appropriate responses Use of violence to ‘de-feminise’ Sex and exploitation as ‘survival’ Loyalty, love or fear – weapon possession, alibi Question of ‘normalisation’ or a continuum of consent may apply Understanding the ‘social field’ Don’t forget the boys! Young women’s role is complex and variable as both victim and perpetrator We must not forget the boys!

25 ‘It seems like girls have to either fight the boys, have sex with them, or not turn up at all.’
Frontline practitioner on the subject of safe spaces for gang-associated young women and girls, Home Office academic roundtable event, September 2012

26 ‘For me it was like that was my way to keep in with the boys without having to beat them. Like me, I‘m this little Asian girl, what police is gonna think to stop me. I was running stuff from Birmingham to London and back again for time and never got caught, even though I had a record of my own‘

27 Further reading Beckett et al (2012) Research into gang-associated sexual exploitation and sexual violence: Interim report Firmin, C. (2011) This is it. This is my life... OCC (2012) ‘I thought I was the only one. The only one in the world’ OCC Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Gangs and Groups Pearce, J. and Pitts, J. (2011) Youth Gangs, Sexual Violence and Sexual Exploitation Weller, N. (2010) ‘Gangs: Don’t you know it’s different for girls?’ MA Thesis (unpublished) See also research published by Race On The Agenda (ROTA) in 2010: The Female Voice in Violence Project 

28 Email: fiona. factor@beds. ac. uk Tel: 07725 217229 www. beds. ac

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