Friday, 27 May 2016

Understanding the profile of offenders is key to tackling child sexual exploitation

Earlier this month Telford & Wrekin Council published a report on child sexual exploitation. The figures were shocking - we have the highest rate of sex offences against children in the country. Against a national average of 6.4 sex crimes against children per 10,000 people Telford & Wrekin has 15. That's worse than Rotherham and Rochdale which have been all over the news in the last year or two.

The report is pretty lengthy and the council clearly want to do something to get off that top spot but can they do that if they don't understand the profile of the offenders? The relatively low number of Asian offenders (compared to other more notable child abuse hotspots) is quite prominent in the report but the offenders are only broken down into "white", "Asian" and "black". Bearing in mind the demographics of Telford's population, the "white" offenders are most likely to be English or eastern European. They could be a fairly even mixture of both or predominantly one or the other. The report doesn't make the distinction.

Why is it important to know? Because the way you tackle child abusers needs to be tailored to what drives them to do what they do. Sexual exploitation of women and children is more prevalent in eastern Europe and there is a cultural difference in the way that women are treated and the way they expect to be treated. In some places no doesn't necessarily mean no unless it's pretty aggressively expressed and the age of consent is less important than it is here. The cultural aspect can't be ignored if the offenders are primarily eastern European because it means there is an extra step in the preventative action the police and social services take in challenging cultural norms in specific communities. If they turn out to be predominantly white English then it is a clear case of predation because there is no cultural acceptance of sexual exploitation in white English communities and prevention is more "straightforward" detection and intervention.

I asked the council for a breakdown of the offenders in the report by ethnicity code but they don't have that information because the police had already aggregated the ethnicity to create the "white", "Asian" and "black" categories. I have now requested that information off West Mercia Police and assuming they don't find a reason to refuse to provide the information I will provide an update in due course.

If you have concerns about the safety of a child you can contact Telford & Wrekin Council. You can find contact details, including an out of hours emergency number, on the CSE page of the Telford & Wrekin Council website.