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Child sexual exploitation is never the fault of the victim

This opinion piece is almost 2 years old

Daljeet Dagon highlights victim blaming on CSE Awareness Day

Child sexual exploitation is sexual abuse and as such is never the fault of the child. Children become vulnerable due to their circumstances and when their needs are not being met. Abusers exploit the vulnerabilities experienced by children in ways that mask the nature of the abuse.

Cultural attitudes towards the experiences and behaviours of some young people however appear to cloud our understanding of consent and victimhood, leading to too many children and young people being seen as complicit in their abuse.

These cultural attitudes are so ingrained into our understanding of sexual abuse that the language we use to identify cases can blame victims. When victim blaming language is used, there is a risk of normalising and minimising the child’s experiences, resulting in a lack of appropriate response.  

Children and young people who access Barnardo’s Scotland sexual exploitation services have reported that they are aware of victim-blaming attitudes within these systems and how the experience can cause deterioration in their wellbeing, which impacts on their relationships with trusted adults.

Responsibility for abuse/exploitation therefore always lies with the perpetrators who abuse and exploit children and cause them harm; irrespective of the behaviour or circumstances of a child. If there is no perpetrator, there will be no abuse/exploitation of a child.  

Scottish Government must take responsibility for the recommendations in the report published in 2020 Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) and Barnardo’s Scotland Sexual exploitation of children involved in the Children’s Hearings System  and the charity’s policy recommendations Policy Report: Sexual exploitation of children involved in the Children’s Hearings System and assign their delivery to an appropriate national working group (either new or existing) with appropriate strategic oversight and accountability processes.

This CSE Awareness Day, 18 March, sees the start of SCRA and Barnardo’s Scotland’s week-long social media campaign highlighting the many different ways children and young people can experience CSE. 

The aim of the campaign is to help organisations, social workers, practitioners, police, and the general public understand the different forms CSE can take, and what signs to look out for, so children and young people receive the support they need.”

Daljeet Dagon, CSE Programme Manager for Barnardo's Scotland, has over 25 years working in raising awareness of CSE



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