Basis’ battle against child sexual exploitation

It is undeniable that attitudes to child sexual exploitation need to be changed. Up until 2015, the term ‘child prostitute’ was used to describe a young person under the age of 18 “selling sex”, language which clearly criminalises the child. Victims of the Rotherham paedophile gang were first identified in the early 1990s and their abusers were not convicted until 2012 and 2016. A young woman who recently shared her experiences of exploitation and abuse was told by police that if she was older he would “get her for wasting police time.” All these young women were victims of childhood sexual exploitation and for various reasons they were not believed and were let down by the people and services who were meant to protect them.

CSE (Childhood Sexual Exploitation) can be defined as a form of child abuse which occurs when an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance in power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity in exchange for something the victim needs or wants. Despite there being an increased dialogue about CSE amongst professionals and in the mainstream media, the extent of coercion and manipulation involved is massively misunderstood and there still exists a culture of victim blaming.

Professionals, the public, parents and even peers dismiss victims of sexual exploitation as making “poor life decisions” and use labels such as “slag” “whore” and “tramp” so frequently that the incredibly harmful impact of these words is forgotten. For some young people exploitation has become their norm, and attitudes are such that the perpetrator is often absolved from any blame or responsibility.

Basis Yorkshire is a local charity which provides support to young women in Leeds who are at risk of or are experiencing CSE. As well as offering individual one to one support, Basis runs a campaign, “It’s Not Your Fault”, leading up to the 18th of March which marks National CSE Awareness Day. Change starts with education and Basis aim to reach as many people as possible to educate them about the process and impact of CSE as well as counteracting negative victim blaming messages.

From the 5th – 18th of March, Basis Yorkshire is holding an art exhibition, “In Our Own Words”, at the Shine Building in Harehills which is co-produced with our service users exploring the process and impact of CSE. On the 14th of March they are holding an additional awareness raising event presenting other work created by service users and holding a panel discussion where young people will have the opportunity to give advice to professionals about best practice.

Links to buy tickets for this event will be available on Basis’ website and through their twitter and facebook accounts. You can also support the campaign by using #ItsNotYourFault or sharing an image of a hand on your social media with a message of support written on it. If you would like donate to Basis then you can do so by texting BYYP18 £5 to 70070. Help us to challenge and resilience to win over exploitation and abuse.

Ruth Shepherd

Photo credit: Pixabay