Protect & Respect is the largest service for child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the UK, and is run by the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. According to a recently published evaluation, tackling CSE requires putting the child’s needs first. Rebecca, a Protect & Respect practitioner, stresses the importance of being attentive to a child’s needs – to be patient and establish their trust in order for them to open up about their experiences. Rebecca worked unsuccessfully with a girl for months, who cancelled most of their scheduled sessions. But according to Rebecca: ‘when she texted me out of the blue one morning, it signalled she was now willing to engage. Despite having a full diary of prior commitments, and her being an hour’s drive away, I knew it was vital to take this opportunity to meet her as it was so rare for her to reach out. That day she disclosed her abuse.’
One of the most important insights from the evaluation is the need for practitioners working with children to meet, interact, engage and develop trustworthy relationships with the child. This is a precondition for child victims of sexual exploitation to open up and seek help.
With 90% of the current users being girls, the initiative will pay special attention to reaching out to boys who may be potential victims, but who are otherwise channelled through the criminal justice system.
The whole evaluation is available here.