“The things you talked about make such sense but I had never thought about them in this way. Excited about sharing with colleagues.”

“It was uncomfortable at times but in a good way. It has given me much food for thought. Thank you FACES!”

Our 2019 conference brought people from local mosques, churches, charities, community groups, schools and local authority, and individuals coming from outside of Luton together to hear about the experiences of lesser heard victims of child sexual exploitation and abuse and to confront some of the challenges in recognising abuse and providing appropriate responses.

FACES Luton child sexual exploitation, abuse, safeguarding conference

At the heart of the discussions were issues of ethnicity, gender and faith and how they impact how we see victims and influence our safeguarding responses. As Luton is a very diverse town, and misconceptions around these parts of identity are known to cause safeguarding failures, we recognised the importance of bringing additional expert knowledge into our community to improve safeguarding practice. We welcomed speakers from The Centre of Expertise on child sexual abuse and other experienced practitioners who work with children and young people from lesser heard communities and adult survivors of abuse.

We are very encouraged by all those who attended and showed their determination to protect all children and young people. Most attendees have indicated that they gained knowledge that will benefit them both professionally and personally, had their own perceptions challenged and broadened, and went away with a better understanding of how perceptions around faith, gender and ethnicity can impact safeguarding responses. Attendees said they felt “validated”, “empowered”, and “challenged to look at things differently and to be more aware of my own bias”.

Keynote by Jahnine Davis, Makeda Consultancy

Our keynote speaker, Jahnine Davis, an independent consultant and previous National Chair of Barnardo’s Race Equality Network addressed the challenges that young people from minoritised communities face and emphasised how this cannot be overlooked when talking about abuse and safeguarding.

Key messages that were taken from the keynote included “how homogenised services do not capture the nuances of communities and individuals”, “don’t fear talking about race, pretending we ‘don’t see colour’ isn’t the solution”, and “really useful insight into the need to challenge common terms such as BME etc, and I shall be discussing this in more depth with fellow white colleagues and associates”.

jahnine davis makeda consultancy faces conference

Workshops

Masculnity and Child Sexual Abuse

Nick Marsh, a Practice Improvement Advisor with the Centre of Expertise on child sexual abuse delivered a workshop titled Masculinity and Child Sexual Abuse, exploring gendered perceptions, cultural expectations of manhood and barriers to disclosure.

nick marsh faces workshop

Searching for a Safe Space

Giselle Richelieu ran a session around the impact of societal stereotyping and the conscious and unconscious bias of practitioners. Participants discussed how we engage with young people from marginalised communities and thought about how we can create and maintain safe, brave and intentional spaces that reflect and celebrate the intersectional identities of the communities we serve.

giselle richelieu faces conference

Trauma, Surviving and Thriving

Robert Lightowler shared how we can better understand the experiences of people affected by trauma, and explored the journey from surviving to thriving and ways to prevent child sexual abuse. Robert works with men inside and outside of prison to facilitate a journey of restoration from child abuse. His book, ‘Breaking the Silence on Child Abuse – One man’s journey to whole life transformation’ was published last year under the pseudonym Robert Stevens.

nick marsh faces conference

We’ve had some really positive comment about the workshops, including:

“It was important for my colleagues to hear things that we are not able to say to them ourselves.”

“These are conversations that we desperately need to have in Luton and I am pleased that FACES have initiated them.”

“Every trauma has a story and as reflective practitioners it is important for us to discover signs of disclosure so we are in a position to help.”

“I took away to look deeper than what is presented on the surface to not make assumptions.”

Thank you to all of our speakers for your contributions. The knowledge, experience and concern for children and young people that was shared will certainly make a difference to local attitudes and organisational practice!

FACES Training

We’ll be continuing these discussions in our brand new training in September, find out more about that here.

FACES Research

We were very excited to introduce our research project which will be carried out over 2019/20 and will explore how Christian and Muslim young people experience sex and relationships education (SRE) in formal and informal contexts, how this relates to their faith, and what this means for its safeguarding capacity.

We know that SRE is an increasingly contentious topic as it becomes compulsory in the UK for all children enrolled in school, which makes this research even more important. Young people’s experiences and views should be heard, and SRE should take into account their nuanced experiences in order to make it appropriate and meaningful.

We continue to challenge the narrative that faith is part of the problem in relation to sexual abuse and exploitation; we say faith can play a critical role in creating solutions. Find out more about our research project here.

Thank you to everyone who attended and made the event so meaningful and reflective. Engaging in challenging and sometimes uncomfortable conversations is necessary in order to overcome some of the barriers that we face in keeping young people safe. Thank you for demonstrating the importance of that work, and for being a part of those conversations.

Were you at our conference? We still want to hear from you! Please take some time to fill out our online feedback survey.

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