Our latest guest blog has been written by the Regional CSE Coordinator, DI Larisa Hunt. You can find out more about Zephyr, which is a Regional Organised Crime Unit (ROCU) on their website.
It’s been a busy few months following CSE awareness day and the South West Regional Organised Crime Unit’s Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Conference. I’d just like to thank everyone in the South West who held an event or raised awareness in their local area, or indeed attended our conference.
Here’s a link to the NWG’s blog about our conference: http://www.nwgnetwork.org/perpetrators-texas-rangers-line-abuse-special-educational-needs-disabilities/
It was about this time that I also attended the University of Bedfordshire CSE and Policing Knowledge Hub Conference, CSE and Policing: Next Steps. The work that the University has carried out over the last 18 months – 2 years has been incredible. They started at a similar time to the role of the regional coordinators so I feel that I have been on a journey with them. This conference brought all this work together and showcased the work carried out by police officers in the world of academia and the work completed by police officers working with experts by experience. It’s not a surprise but it is always amazing to see what we can achieve when we work together.
Chief Constable Simon Bailey opened the day and reminded us about the changing nature of crime. There has been an 80% increase in the reporting of child sexual abuse since 2012, it is estimated that there are 8,500 identified victims of or young people at risk of CSE and there are over 4,000 referrals a month from industry to the National Crime Agency. However, it’s always good to remember that we have made some significant progress in policing in the last two years as well. There is a Child Safeguarding Action Plan, a National CSE Action Plan, the introduction of regional coordinators and analysts and the production of the Regional Problem Profiles. Very soon, I will be joined by a Regional Prevent Officer and this is helping us to deliver more. More victims have the confidence to report, more offenders are being arrested, there are new intervention methods and thanks to the University of Bedfordshire and others, there is academic research to inform practice.
During the experts panel we heard Dr Sophie Hallett, Dr Helen Beckett, Dr Kristine Hickle and DI Ivon Beer talk about the “victim’s journey.” We heard why young people don’t see themselves as victims, thinking about the wider context of CSE, grooming and the fact that a young person is exchanging sex for something so that they can meet their needs – whether this is food, accommodation or affection. The relationship that a professional builds with a young person is really important and must be based on trust. One young person is quoted as saying: “I was basically a puppet…when they wanted me I had to do it. When they didn’t want me I heard nothing.” You could be forgiven for thinking that this young person was talking about their abuser but they were actually talking about the police. It’s really important that we don’t replicate the power dynamic that the victim experiences with the perpetrator. We have to remember that we are asking a young person to speak about their worst experience in a society where we don’t talk about sex. Young people want improvements in 4 areas:
The more I hear about trauma informed approaches to policing, the more I think that we can really change the way we police and the way we work with young people. Being trauma informed means you understand trauma symptoms which are normal responses to abnormal situations. If you are in an abnormal situation, your body and brain works to keep you safe. You are unlikely to trust anybody and you might be aggressive, angry, hyper aroused, numb or removed. This is a healthy response to a frightening situation. You might ‘Fight’, ‘flight’, ‘freeze’, ‘flop’, ‘friend.’ If you are traumatised, you can only deal in there here and now and today – a week is too far away.
The first stage of trauma treatment is to seek stabilisation and transparent and safe relationships are very important. Choice and control is really important for CSE victims as they haven’t had this.
It was good to hear from the Met that they periodically re open CSE investigations to re-establish contact with those young people who were not ready to engage to see if they will engage. Their investigations look to conclude with a positive outcome or intervention for the young person rather than traditional criminal justice disposals. They are victim focused rather than victim led.
I attended the ‘Marginal Gains’ workshop and I have mentioned marginal gains in a previous blog. If we all change a little bit about our practice or make small changes to do something different, or better, then we will all contribute to making a big difference. As a result of the work between police officers and experts by experience we saw two of the new tools they had developed – one being a training video for police officers and one being a poster that can be put up in police stations that is for police and young people. The video will be edited further before release but this will be a great tool, especially for student officers. The poster gives advice and guidance to police and young people about the journey they will take – a brilliant resource. I have it on a PDF and I grabbed a rather large handful so if you would like one – please email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. If your force or organisation would like a larger number of copies of the poster please email Fiona Factor, Fiona.Factor@beds.ac.uk with the number of posters required.
I also attended a workshop about Harmful Sexual behaviour (HSB). A number of sexual offences committed against children are committed by children. We need a different response, we clearly can’t use the same response you would use for adults. We looked at Hackett’s continuum of sexual behaviours – normal, inappropriate, problematic, abusive, violent and also the Brooke traffic light system. Contextual safeguarding can also help when considering the response to some situations where this is a factor. Rather than the traditional approach of focusing on the child and the home, we need to think about the child, home, peer group, school and neighbourhood. These can be positive and negative influences. A police officer working with the University of Bedfordshire has carried out a study around HSB by persons on their own and in groups. He talked us through provisional findings and then we took part in an exercise, charting a young person’s behaviour in chronological order against child, home, peer group, school and neighbourhood. This was an eye opening experience and really helped me to see where concerns were and opportunities to think about intervention. This looks like a great tool that could be incorporated in to the strategy discussion aide memoir that I have worked on with Barnardo’s and Bath and North East Somerset Local Authority. This is currently being trialled in the Avon and Somerset area and I hope to update you about this soon.
The afternoon session focused on the perpetrators of CSE.
Marcus Erooga talked about Organisational Sex Offenders. Some offenders are preferential, some are opportunistic and some are situational. Situational offenders find that it is unknown to themselves that they would offend. Offending is specific to a set of situational factors that potentiate their offending. This is more likely against one particular child or young person.
Dr Horvath talked about Multiple Perpetrator Rape. This relates to 10-15% of all rapes in UK. There are differences between those that offend in groups or pairs to those that lone offend. Individual’s in groups/pairs seem to be quite similar ie, those in street gangs, fraternity rape, war, etc Very little is known about individual contexts. However, much more is known about sociocultural contexts. Situational contexts can be strong enough to overcome inhibitions. Social comparison can mean a person wants to be included in a group and they may lose a sense of self/individuality. In most cases there will be a leader. They initiate the offending; they harm the victim, will sexually assault the victim, they might be more sexually deviant and might be at greater risk of recidivism. Followers have been found to use significantly more excessive force and scored lower with regards to emotional problems.
Simon Hackett talked about NOTA – a professional association for those that treat abusers. He would like to extend the membership so have a look at www.nota.co.uk He said that we need to be really careful about the language we use and should we be talking about young people as perpetrators? Children’s motivations aren’t an underlying pathology for having a sexual interest in other children but something that happens in a situational context. Education and early intervention is key.
If you wish to listen to any of the presentations or share them with a colleague, the presentation recordings are available on the CSE and Policing Knowledge Hub website at the following link: https://www.uobcsepolicinghub.org.uk/responding-to-cse/webinars
I was also fortunate to attend the NWG conference in March. Following from the success of last year’s conference, it was great to hear really informative inputs on the intersection of CSE with Honour Based Violence, with boys and internal trafficking and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller Communities. Laurelle Brown from the Children’s Society talked passionately and informatively about how there can be overlaps between HBV and CSE. This applies to many religions, cultures and communities and can be a part of abuse when a person is being abused and controlled financially, emotionally, physically and sexually. Professionals should not be afraid of challenging what might be thought of as a ‘cultural norm.’ We must listen to the voice of the child, be open minded, thorough, reflective and should use a systematic, multi-agency approach to safeguarding.
Laurelle also talked about internal trafficking and boys. Out of all the children and young people referred between April – June 2016, 61% were male and 39% were female. The most common form of exploitation for boys is criminal exploitation and labour exploitation. More than a quarter of all children trafficked go missing and over 40% of those reported to the Rise Project involved sexual exploitation. There are challenges for boys to disclose and stereotypes around boys having a ‘macho’ image still exist. Social attitudes need to change and we need to think about how we intervene, the language we use and the judgements we make. There are links to County Lines offending yet we rarely use the terminology of ‘grooming’ and trafficking’ when discussing these cases, yet this is exactly what has happened. We need more training, awareness raising and better communication between agencies and information sharing.
Danielle Amann from the Children’s Society has carried out amazing work with the Gypsy, Roma and Traveller communities. She has learnt that there are strong protective factors within communities because community ethics are very strong. They are family orientated and don’t tend to mix with other groups. However, there are risks online. There are vulnerabilities as many children within the community will start education later and finish earlier. There is often a lack of knowledge about online safety and knowing when to report a young person as missing. Danielle has worked with some young people to create resources for their communities. These will be available soon
It was great to see PC Louise Dembicki from Avon and Somerset Constabulary nominated for the National Policing Lead’s Award. Sadly Louise didn’t win but was a very deserving runner up. DS Nigel Hatten from Gloucestershire Police was nominated for the Helping Hand Award. Again, sadly he did not win but was also a hugely deserving runner up. The nominations and winners can be found here:http://www.nwgnetwork.org/nwg-4th-annual-conference-unsung-hero-awards-2/