Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is a loaded topic, but for us to avoid speaking about it or not raise awareness would come with even more significant harm to society’s most vulnerable. This month saw CSE Awareness Day on the 18th March; a day to raise awareness and together, as communities and organisations, put a stop to this crime where children and young people under 18 are abused sexually by criminals.
It’s sexual exploitation where a child or young person might be given things, like gifts, drugs, money, status and affection, in exchange for performing sexual activities. Detrimentally most children and young people are tricked into believing they are in a loving and consensual relationship with the abuse.
CSE can be perpetrated by grooming gangs, but it isn’t only a “real life” crime; increasingly, the crime is committed online. Whether the abuse is online or in person, it is JUST as devasting to the survivors.
Rotherham Rise supports survivors of this crime to be able to learn to cope and deal with the inflicted trauma of being sexually abused as a child.
Rosy* has been supported by Rise and bravely agreed to tell some of her story, in the hope it allows other survivors to understand it isn’t their fault:
“As a teenager, I never felt I fitted in; my parents were great but felt they didn’t understand being me or being 14. I wanted to spend more time with my mates. We would hang out after school, go to the shop, go to the park, and this is where I met an older boy, who seemed much more interesting than the boys in my group or school… mature and more sorted! I felt, finally, someone who “got me”, I really felt he understood me. He would collect me from school; he would buy me clothes.. it felt GREAT! We had parties, and he introduced me to alcohol, which also led to experimenting with drugs.
I am still not sure how it all happened. As the relationship developed, I also became more hooked on the drugs. I had gotten dependent on my boyfriend for my fix, and I became too ashamed to explain to my parents that I felt trapped in the relationship. Things started to spiral.
To start with, it was just him and I, but then as I was given more drink and drugs, his mates started getting involved with me sexually also. Then it became sleeping with men I didn’t even know often being “out of it” I felt so much shame. My relationship was changing even further; I was often hit or shouted at and put down; it was all my fault, I was at fault, useless, and the awful thing is … I came to believe it! I had an early pregnancy and felt I had no choice but to move in with my boyfriend as I had become so isolated from my old friends and family. He would say none of them cared, almost daily so I became to feel no one cared. I was only 16. What would I know! He was, still, the love of my life.
I think a lot of what has happened to me I blocked out. I stayed in the relationship too long and had babies and many miscarriages due to the physical damage done to me. When social care became involved and a threat, I could lose my children, that some reality kicked in. With support, I came off the drugs and drink and got the strength to leave finally.
I am still working through a lot of it, with the help of Rotherham Rise, amongst other organisations. I have been diagnosed with PTSD, so a lot of it is trying to learn to cope. Life can still be difficult, the effects haven’t all disappeared, but life is more manageable. For me, the biggest thing now is to be able to say finally… “it wasn’t my fault” and mean and know it.”
It is important to remember that children and young people are not at fault for this heinous crime and that it affects both girls and boys. For those affected by this story, please know support is out there for you; people do care, whether you are going through it now or have been in the past, contact Rotherham Rise: email [email protected], call our Advice Line: 0330 2020571 (mon – fri: 9am – 5pm) or use webchat via rotherhamrise.org.uk (tue & wed from 6pm – 8pm.)
Need advice as a parent or guardian because you are concerned, visit paceuk.info
*names have been changed.