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BASW: Protect children from ‘currency of sex’

Responding to the publication of the findings of a nationwide Inquiry by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner, BASW has called on society to stop tolerating the promotion of sexualised images of children for commercial profit.

Bridget Robb, acting chief executive of the British Association of Social Workers said: “Despite ill-informed perceptions to the contrary about young people's behaviour inviting problems into their lives, the very last thing that sexually exploited children want is sex, and they need protection and help to recognise what both good and bad relationships look like.
 
“The sexual abuse and exploitation of children is a crime without boundaries. While it may be comforting to view it as an offence done by certain types of people to certain types of children, that is a naïve denial of the truth.
 
“Child sexual abuse has always existed in society, and it is good that there has been so much attention on the subject recently, as it is to be hoped that victims will feel more empowered to speak out about the ordeal they have suffered and the damage that has been inflicted.
 
“Alongside this, we also have to consider if we have created a society that has promoted sexualised images of children, for advertising and entertainment, for too long, and if so, what do we do about it? 
 
“Young people have always experimented with sexual activity, yet we are living in a society where the currency of sex and the language of abusive relationships are increasingly seen as the norm; not by all young people, but certainly by a growing and worrying amount of young people.
 
“We have men, women and young people themselves who exploit this shift in attitudes, and they come from all walks of life, including people of all ethnicities and inclduing celebrities. What they all have in common is that they are using sexual abuse to exercise power and to satisfy their own needs.
 
“Their use of power, secrecy and grooming techniques can prevent some children from even realising they are victims. These common threads can also prevent the abuse ever being proven, with bribes and threats part of the perpetrator's armoury, as well as, if it ever gets that far, efforts to discredit a child's testimony. This discrediting often extends to those professionals attempting to intervene, such as social workers. 
 
“We need to start thinking seriously about how we want our young people to be perceived, treated and protected from this pernicious trend towards sexualising children. 
 
“It seems easier to lurch from one crisis to another rather than to ensure we raise awareness across the board, have sufficient training and support for professionals and, above all, accept the need for societal change.
 
“We must try to make it easier for children and young people to tell us when they are afraid or being ill-treated. The earlier we can reach children the better.”