Claire Cody is a Research Fellow working on the Our Voices Programme of work. In this blog she shares her reflections from working on a global report exploring recovery and reintegration.
Over the last few months I have been working on a report called ‘connecting the dots: supporting the recovery and reintegration of children affected by sexual exploitation’ for the organisation ECPAT International. Recognising the lack of a robust evidence-base on what effective support during the recovery and reintegration process for children affected by CSE looks like, this report aimed to collate existing evidence on what appears to be important to children who have experienced sexual exploitation.
As part of developing the report, I was asked to review and draw on findings from field research undertaken in Nepal, Thailand and the Philippines (commissioned by ECPAT International) and findings from the wider body of literature. Reviewing the research findings, which captured the views and experiences of 67 survivors of sexual exploitation in the three countries, I was struck by a number of things.
Firstly, it was the familiar messages conveyed by young people. Having spent the last 8 years working on this issue – in various parts of the world – the fact that young people share similar experiences in regards to how they are often treated and how they wish to be treated is striking. Young people consistently share how they sometimes feel discriminated against by different professionals, how they can find it hard to trust professionals and how they want to be given more information about what will happen to them in terms of support and during criminal justice proceedings.
In the context where the field research took place, it was evident from the findings that the lack of resources played a key role in the quality of support that young people could access. There were many examples where children’s most basic needs were not being met. However, what was also clear was how small changes could seemingly make a big difference to how young people are made to feel about themselves and how they ultimately view the world. This chimes with similar research carried out by the International Centre into young people’s experiences and perspectives on the police, criminal justice processes and help-seeking and support post experiences of sexual abuse (Beckett and Warrington, 2015; Beckett et al., 2016; Warrington et al., 2017).
Young people’s interactions with service providers and the wider community were central in either making them feel cared for and respected, or invisible and ostracised. It was the little things that young people talked about: service providers being kind and genuinely caring for them; professionals keeping promises that they made; being offered familiar food; being asked if they were ok; not judging them; being given clear, accurate information.
Through reviewing the findings and wider literature, in the report I identify nine key principles for practice that are consistent with taking a trauma-informed and rights-based approach to caring and supporting children. These nine principles involve:
- Establishing trust,
- Committing to the child and building a solid relationship,
- Prioritising safety,
- Promoting agency,
- Taking a non-judgemental approach,
- Promoting acceptance and belonging,
- Encouraging hope,
- Providing access to information, and
- Ensuring and maintaining confidentiality and privacy.
I argue in the report that these elements of care do not cost much in financial terms, nor do they require years of training or the initiation of a new ‘project’. They are instead, small things that all service providers, in any given context, should be made aware of and supported to prioritise, nurture and develop in their everyday interactions with children and young people.
The full report will shortly be made available on EPCAT International’s website.