Peter Garsden, president of the Association of Child Abuse Lawyers has been interviewed on Radio London following the publication of a study by University College London into the scale of the sexual exploitation of boys. The study reveals that the sexual exploitation of boys and young men is a much bigger problem than previously thought.
Research supported by Barnardo’s highlights the dangers of underestimating the impact of child sexual exploitation on boys and young men.
Dr Carol McNaughton Nicholls of NatCen who carried out the research said: “Gender discrimination is at the heart of what makes women and girls more likely to be victims of sexual abuse – including sexual exploitation. But from talking to professionals we know that it affects male victims too; not only are they at risk of sexual exploitation, but they are also at risk of being overlooked as victims. We need to ensure we understand and address these risks, and protect young people from harm, regardless of gender.”
Statistics unearthed by the study show child sexual abuse incidents in care homes over a 14-month period found that 75% of the abuse was against boys.
Mr Garsden, Managing Partner and leading abuse lawyer at Simpson Millar believes that although victims may feel sexual offences are shameful and embarrassing, there is a big difference between male and female victims of abuse. His experience as an abuse lawyer is that males internalise and females manifest symptoms of harm much more obviously. Thus boys are more likely to keep quiet because the abuse by another male is shameful and embarrassing to the macho male culture.
Commenting on the study he said: “With regards to our clients, 95% of them are male, and thus the concept of male victims being commonplace is a norm to us. We tend to deal with the typical care leaver who goes into care through the criminal justice system. It is these victims who under-report largely because of their mistrust, amongst others of the police who have spent most of their lives prosecuting them for crimes they have committed. Thus to complain to the same police force whom they mistrust intensely is an anathema to them.”
Lead researcher Dr Ella Cockbain of UCL said: “Crucially, the finding that one in three service users were male highlights the danger in thinking CSE only really affects girls. We hope our study encourages policy-makers, practitioners and the general public to do their utmost to protect vulnerable boys and young men from sexual exploitation.”
Barnardo’s is calling for a ‘radical shift’ in professional attitudes and practice. The charity wants agencies to challenge stereotypical views among front line workers. They believe that in order to better protect children; all schools should provide high quality, age-appropriate sex and relationship education. This should reflect that boys can be vulnerable to becoming victims as well as girls.