Real Voices: Report concludes child sexual exploitation is the new social norm in some areas

30 Oct 2014

Launching her independent report into child sexual exploitation (CSE) in Manchester today (Thursday 30th October 2014), Stockport MP Ann Coffey said the ‘real and ongoing problem’ of CSE ‘will not be tackled unless there is a sea change in public attitudes away from a culture of blaming children and young people for bringing about their own sexual exploitation.’

The powerful report, which calls for CSE to be declared a public health priority like smoking and obesity, foregrounds the ‘unaltered, authentic voices’ of children and young people: 

“The men do not care how old you are. There is a group of men who hang around outside a shop. When we go past in school uniform they say things and make us feel horrible.

“It makes you feel that all boys want one thing. When men approach us I think are all men like that? The majority of men I have come across are out to hurt women from what I have seen.”

Young people quoted in the report also talk about their mistrust the police and other statutory agencies and reluctance to report their experiences:

“The police have a stereotype of what we are, and we know that so we do not go to them for help. We think what’s the point? Young people do not call the police because we know how they look down at us. We have to just focus on getting away from the guys.”

In response to the Real Voices report, spokesperson for Rape Crisis England & Wales Katie Russell said: 

“Rape Crisis welcomes this report and its determination to shine a light on the prevalence and normalisation of child sexual exploitation.

Real Voices crucially highlights the increased sexualisation of girls and young women in particular, and a pervasive lack of respect for, and sense of entitlement to, girls and their bodies. 

Through 40 years’ frontline experience of providing specialist services to women and girls affected by sexual violence, we know how difficult and complex it can be for survivors to access the support and justice they want and deserve.

Today’s report reinforces the ongoing importance of sustaining our specialist, independent and confidential Rape Crisis support and advocacy services for girls and women who too often feel there is nowhere they can turn where they’ll be believed and never judged or blamed. 

It also makes plain the urgent need for education and awareness-raising work among the general public, and from an early age, to encourage healthy and respectful relationships and to prevent sexual violence.”

The End Violence Against Women (EVAW) Coalition, of which Rape Crisis England & Wales is a member, has recently written to political party leaders asking them to commit to making sex and relationships education in schools compulsory, and to include sexual consent, healthy and respectful relationships, gender stereotypes and online pornography.