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Child sexual abuse: need for radical approaches Sarah Nelson University of Edinburgh Feb 2010.

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Presentation on theme: "Child sexual abuse: need for radical approaches Sarah Nelson University of Edinburgh Feb 2010."— Presentation transcript:

1 Child sexual abuse: need for radical approaches Sarah Nelson University of Edinburgh Feb 2010

2 CSA radical approaches Why highlight CSA, not other child maltreatment when it’s already the most publicised? Is in itself physical, sexual & emotional abuse Causes widest range of damage and distress through life Issues from CSA feature heavily in SW’s client groups: e.g. homelessness, children at risk, mental ill health, parenting problems New & frightening challenges with widespread internet crime, people-trafficking, everyday technology The most publicised – the least addressed?

3 CSA RADICAL APPROACHES Sexually abused children better protected than 20 yrs ago? Some improvements for adult survivors – e.g. more support services, more believed in Court, use of Moorov, SurvivorScotlnd Strategy Checking of dangerous adults & end of v.risky childcare practices reduce opps. for CSA beyond immediate family Fight against internet child predators – more resources But are most children already being abused more likely to be identified and protected?

4 CSA RADICAL APPROACHES Opening story of 11 year old pregnant girl (to return to later) Exemplifies frequent problems still not tackled: Failure to spot clear signs of abuse early, and protect Confusion about young teens’ sexual autonomy – libertarian sexual health influences underplay coercion Public & media lack an informed awareness about CSA & publicity blamed the child – called tart, chav, whore Inability of agencies and the law to deal with – and respond to – media problems in genuine interest of the child.

5 CSA RADICAL APPROACHES Has much improved in 20 years – worrying issues: Huge mismatch between numbers of adults revealing CSA history and child numbers identified through CP Experience of myself & vol sector support agencies, of listening to young survivors: basics still being missed Worry throughout Britain re CP stats that CSA “disappearing” through new emphasis on neglect, emotional abuse, and “needs rather than risk” Continuing low priority for prevention

6 CSA RADICAL APPROACHES CHILD PROTECTION STATS SCOTLAND: 7% of CP registratiuons in for CSA cf. with 21% physical abuse, 47% neglect, 25% emotional abuse. Now lower than 2001 figures, though neglect more than doubled and emotional abuse almost quadrupled. 229 children registered for CSA , 189 previous year. Take one city’s population, e.g. Edinburgh. Approx 66,418 are under 16. If 1 in 20 is or has been CSA victim, 3320 children involved; if 1 in 10, But prevalence studies indicate true % may be a lot higher.

7 CSA RADICAL APPROACHES Some reasons why still so difficult to address CSA: Most difficult, scary topic for many adults Persisting fears in CP agencies of being more proactive due to backlash 20+ yrs ago Linked refusal of CP system to change, to reflect how children actually think & behave & that they don’t tell Fear of finding lots of CSA & being overwhelmed Still disbelief in children’s truthfulness cf. with adults Lack of priority for community prevention progs. Still too many adults benefit directly from CSA

8 CSA RADICAL APPROACHES What needs to be done? Expect CSA to happen! 1)CP system must respond to the way children actually are, and to their huge fears of telling Confidential phonelines to report: refuges to escape to Set up remote-reporting agencies as with hate crimes Slow down process after disclosure, to empower them and to use their knowledge Equip the people children are most likely to tell – not those they’re least likely to tell (eg teavchers & SWs!) Integrate knowledge of coercion into youth sexual health.

9 CSA RADICAL APPROACHES What needs to be done cont. 2) Assertive, informed action and knowledge-gathering e.g. Always explore after common signs & behaviours, known for decades, that many abused children show, including v. early sex Always explore in looked-after settings & after school exclusions: campaign for them to attend units, not wandering streets Use knowledge of adult CSA survivors in local and national CP Use “perpetrator-focussed investigation”, set targets for reduction, closer links with internet investigations & use commitment of National Sexual Crimes Unit Create this new assertiveness with a confidence-building CSA training, not just regulations or “watch my back”

10 CSA RADICAL APPROACHES What needs to be done cont. 4) Need genuinly to integrate new CP approaches fully into GIRFEC, which offers v positive opportunities: Especially: Involving children in decisions, understanding their wishes, helping them asap, having child-centred culture & practice, competent & confident workforce Domestic Abuse pathfinders point excellent direction: v informed risk assessment tool, plus therapeutic progs for children give them time & space to reveal CSA

11 CSA RADICAL APPROACHES GIRFEC cont. BUT……. If basic signs of CSA still not being recognised & acted on – obsession with need to share worrying info. better and collaborate between agencies only works if info. recognised as worrying in first place! Complex tools, matrices, triangles, names of different meetings, long bureaucratic handouts…wood for trees?? Still no validated CP assessment tool in GIRFEC. Must restore the balance: danger aspect mustn’t gradually disappear – a child in need is also a child at risk

12 CSA RADICAL APPROACHES What needs to be done cont. Redefine core values and principles of child protection & fit into GIRFEC – everything else should follow. Aims – To protect children from harm, abuse and neglect To do so in ways which at all times respect their dignity & intelligence, and minimise their distress To identify harm to a child, and those committing it, early as possible To respond in all our processes to the way children actually behave, think, feel and speak at different stages of their development.

13 CSA RADICAL APPROACHES Redefine core values of Child Protection: Aims cont. Actively to enable and assist children to tell about any form of abuse or neglect, in an environment free of fear and shame And to promote prevention in the wider environment which increases the safety of all children The creation of an informed and aware public will be the greatest single contributor to children’s safety.

14 CSA RADICAL APPROACHES PS.. And to ban forever the word Paramount. “Er…that’s it!”


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