Posted: 16 May 2016

Mental health week

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week with the theme ‘Relationships’.

For us at The Children’s Society it is an opportunity to talk about the lack of therapeutic support services available to young people who have experienced sexual exploitation.

Only 1 in 10

mental health trusts fast track victims of sexual exploitation for mental health support


Children who experience low self-esteem and confidence can be very vulnerable to the grooming process.

Sometimes young people who have not experienced love and affection growing up, mistakenly believe that their abusers are the only people who care about them.

In other cases they may have learnt to normalise experiences of abuse as a way of dealing with earlier trauma they may have experienced.

One of The Children’s Society's child sexual exploitation prevention practitioners has written about a situation showing how this ‘normalising of abuse’ can happen and the effect it can have:

‘Whilst we were out I spoke to the young person about the concerns that had been highlighted about relationships between her and [her boyfriend]. [The] young person denied most of it and said that her boyfriend had only ever hit her once, he doesn’t make her have sex with him and everything they do together she wants to do. The young person said whatever happens between her and her boyfriend is between them, as she is the only one that knows just how much he cares for her. The young person seemed to have lots of excuses for her boyfriend’s behaviour and was angry when I told her that concerns will need to be shared with the police and social care.’[from The Children’s Society’s notes.]

‘I am really concerned about her as I feel she will do anything to protect her boyfriend as she feels he has saved her from a harder life at home. She seems to not realise the way her boyfriend is behaving towards her puts her in just as much risk.’ [from The Children’s Society’s notes.]

Teenagers who experience sexual abuse should be recognised as recovering from trauma and deserve adequate therapeutic support – yet this support isn’t readily available.

support isn’t readily available

In the report Old  enough to know better? we found evidence that vulnerable young people recovering from trauma were not able to access mental health support services because they were not considered stable enough to engage, or because there were safeguarding agencies involved. 

Our practitioners report severe shortages of therapeutic support services for young people who have experienced abuse or display sexually harmful behaviour.

Only 1 in 10 mental health trusts fast track victims of sexual exploitation for mental health support and in many areas, the lack of services has led to long waiting times putting off older vulnerable teenagers whose lives may be volatile.

But this is exactly what we at The Children’s Society are trying to change  with your help.

As part of our Seriously Awkward campaign, we are asking MPs to help us secure changes to the Policing and Crime Bill to better protect vulnerable teenagers. One of our key priorities is to ensure better access to mental health support for children who have been sexually abused so they get the help they need, before reaching crisis.

Please take action and contact your MP about this campaign.

Email your MP

By Laura Kekuti - Guest bloggers
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