Family Lives responds to 13 Men Found Guilty of Child Sex Exploitation

News that 13 men have been found guilty of the systematic sexual abuse of vulnerable schoolgirls and teenagers in Bristol again highlights that more work needs to be done to tackle sexploitation.  Our TeenBoundaries project is committed to supporting families dealing with issues such as sexual violence and preventing physical and mental abuse in teenage relationships.  Urgent research is required to quantify the full extent of sexual violence that may occur between some young people.  Both quantitative and qualitative research is needed to explore the causal drivers underlying this behaviour.  The government should prioritise funding to ensure that there is enough data on this problem to understand the scale of the problem and generate evidence-based measures to tackle it.  Schools must continue to play a leading role in teaching children and young people about consent and unacceptable sexual behaviour, and should work with parents to ensure that these messages are delivered and reinforced in the home environment.  Educational prevention initiatives must focus on teaching young people about the negative and damaging impact of violence and about consent and boundaries.  Schools should take a leading role in teaching  pupils how to see through gender stereotypes and sexualised media from an early stage.  Both primary and secondary schools should receive funding to invest in high quality Personal, Social And Health Education (PSHE)  lessons that explore gender stereotypes and help children to decode the messages that the media and marketing practices are sending about gender roles, empowering them to challenge what they see. Families have a key role to play in reinforcing ideas about healthy relationships and sex.  National awareness campaigns should be developed to up-skill parents to talk openly and confidently about sex and relationships to both boys and girls.  Family Lives believes that a consistent, universal approach is needed in schools to ensure that children and young people have the opportunity to realise their fullest social and intellectual potential and live lives that are free from coercion, exploitation and abuse.  It is critical therefore that tackling child exploitation, violence against women and girls and empowering young people to resist sexualised and commercial pressures depends upon engaging schools and families.”

Jeremy Todd, Family Lives Chief Executive