Tuesday saw the official launch event of my book, CSE After Rotherham, co-authored with Dr Angie Heal.
We were extremely fortunate to have the support of our publishers Jessica Kingsley; and St George’s and Kingston University, which enabled us to run the launch as a practice conference. The speakers included us as authors, the Children’s Commissioner Anne Longfield, and Professor Alexis Jay. The survivor who wrote the foreword to the book, T, was also present and gave an incredible speech (her first).
In the spirit of the book, while some aspects of the presentations revisited key failures and findings from Rotherham, the main content considered what could be learned from Rotherham and areas, and what good practice should look like.
Key learning from the conference was:
T’s presentation was without doubt the one that impacted on professionals the most and the one that was the hardest to listen to. It was the first time that she had spoken publicly about her abuse, which started when she was 12 and ended after years of emotional, physical and sexual torture. No matter how familiar we as authors were with her story, it was heart-breaking to hear; and many of the participants were in tears. The horror of her abuse was exacerbated by professionals’ responses (or lack of), community responses, the reporting by the national press, and the way she was made to feel contaminated throughout her entire adolescent life. She raised an issue that many historical victims have faced- when to tell their children that they are the product of rape and that their mother gave evidence at court, securing their biological father’s imprisonment. We make no apologies for the hard hitting nature of her presentation, or some of the other brutal facts discussed during the conference. This abuse is happening to thousands of children across the UK now and if we find it hard to bear as professionals, imagine what it is like to be those victims. How can we fully understand trauma, assess risk, and design meaningful interventions if we do not understand the true horror for the child?
Overall, the conclusion of the seminar was that while practice responses to CSE are improving, as a country we are a long way off ‘good enough’. I ended the day talking about issues that I frequently encounter in practice audits, case reviews and inspections. These include:
We were so grateful to Professor Jay who took time off from chairing the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, and Anne Longfield, for supporting the event.
It was also amazing to see how many people attended, and how far they travelled to get there. Their energy, contributions to group discussions at the end, and positive feedback contributed largely to making the day such a success. This is the second event I have run where nearly everyone has stayed to the end, that speaks for itself in describing the value of the learning at this event
The publishers have asked if we will run a similar event in the North later this year and I would be delighted to do so. Watch this space!
Adele offers consultancy and training services across the UK on all safeguarding issues as well as CSE. Contact her on 01226 388540 or 07966 386584 for further details.