New, free training: responding to child sexual exploitation

Apr 2021

Written by Noel MacNamara

Last week, we launched our new Responding to Child Sexual Exploitation online training resource for caseworkers, residential workers, house supervisors and managers, therapeutic specialists and organisational leaders working in out of home care and therapeutic care.

The Centre for Excellence in Therapeutic Care was commissioned by the New South Wales Department of Communities and Justice to develop a training program focused on Responding to Child Sexual Exploitation. The program was designed in two parts, a series of 8-online modules and a resource kit to support direct work with young people, and was developed in response to recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (2017) to inform prevention and response to child sexual exploitation.

As we demonstrate in the Responding to Child Sexual Exploitation training, there is no characteristic that holds true for every child or young person involved in sexual exploitation. Not every victim has a history of child sexual abuse, goes missing, has a drug or alcohol habit, or is female. However, these are consistent variables that let us know what kinds of vulnerabilities, coercions and circumstances create the opportunity and context for sexual exploitation to take place in the life of a child or young person.

It may seem counterintuitive to say that the behaviour is not the problem but the answer to the problem. However, this is the case. It is important to remember that the major task for those working in therapeutic (relationship-based) care is to identify the child or young person’s needs that are not being met. It is these needs (that are being met through a child or young person’s involvement in sexual exploitation) that will help to determine appropriate actions, interventions and assist us to create/build the right resources to help the child or young person break free from ties that bind them in the exploitative relationship.

When we recognise this we can offer a more informed therapeutic service to the child or young person and one that is much more likely to meet their unmet needs and enable them to successfully withdraw from abusive and exploitative relationships and enable them to make a meaningful connection to others who can offer relationships that are safe and nurturing.

Working with children and young people who are the victims of child sexual exploitation is one of the most challenging aspects of residential care practice. The nature of some of these cases is such that it can leave us, as practitioners, feeling emotionally drained, hopeless, and ineffective. Recognising that the behaviour is not the problem but the answer to the problem can increase our sense of success and achievement in doing a worthwhile job and increase their own self-worth and reduce the likelihood of vicarious traumatisation by reducing hopelessness and cynicism and most importantly give hope and trust in recovery towards the future safety and wellbeing of the young people in our care.

The Responding to Sexual Exploitation and the Safe Connections Resource Kit will provide you with an excellent understanding of the issues and challenges involved in this work and resources to assist you to work with the young people in your care.

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