Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) was the subject of a hard-hitting conference at the Grand Hall last week which was attended by over 150 practitioners from a range of agencies and services.
Hosted by East Ayrshire Council’s Health and Social Care Partnership and the local Child Protection Committee, the conference featured 100 stories pinned up around the hall of children who had suffered this type of abuse. Their stories helped to dispel the myth that all cases were the same or similar.
Scott McCurdy, a local police officer, then shared his experience and learning from an investigation into online exploitation of a number of young people which resulted in the conviction of the person responsible. The simple message from his presentation was: don’t send indecent images to anyone – not even someone you trust.
Another presentation focused on research carried out by young sexual abuse survivors which was overseen by Laurie Matthews from Dundee University. Laurie outlined the findings from the research which give a greater understanding as to why children and young people do not disclose abuse. This insight will in turn allow professionals across East Ayrshire to build on the ongoing work to continually improve services.
The final presentation of the day allowed participants a rare opportunity to ‘walk in the shoes’ of Sammy Woodhouse, a survivor from the Rotherham Child Abuse Enquiry as she told her own story. Articulate, honest, insightful, objective, thought provoking and inspirational are just a few words that apply to this young woman as she held the audience spellbound. She explained what had prevented her from disclosing the abuse at an earlier stage and also the challenges she faced in getting the authorities to listen to her when she finally felt able to speak out. She now focuses on raising awareness amongst professionals, communities and young people to prevent the risk of it happening to others.
Kate Thomson, Chair of East Ayrshire Child Protection Committee, said: “Tackling child sexual exploitation in all its forms is a key priority for the Child Protection Committee and this conference successfully highlighted the issues facing children and young people, including when they are online. It demonstrated that everyone in our communities has a role to play in spotting the signs and then reporting the neglect or abuse of children if they suspect it is happening.”