News

Statement on Huddersfield arrests

Faiths Against Child Sexual Exploitation Luton (FACES Luton) is deeply saddened to hear the story coming from Huddersfield involving the arrest of 31 people for offences including the rape and trafficking of five young victims.

FACES Luton is a coalition of Muslims and Christians in the town that came together in 2016 to provide strong message from our respective faiths condemning all sexual exploitation of children (CSE).  We are very aware of the way cases like that in Huddersfield, often referred to as “Street Grooming” have involved many men of Muslim background, but we condemn the way these stories have been relentlessly hijacked to attack Islam. Just a few weeks ago we were equally appalled as the media carried the horrific accounts given to the Independent Inquiry on Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) of the grooming and abuse perpetrated by a Church of England Bishop against young men.  Our message is clear:  both our faiths, indeed all faiths, totally condemn such sexual abuse. CSE is a blight on society, it occurs in all communities, and in defiance of the way some seek divide the nation around it, as Christian and Muslim leaders we are committed to work together for its prevention.

Our two conferences have heard from victims and their parents, lawyers involved in representing victims, social workers and police, as well as leaders from Luton’s Muslim and Christian community.  

 Over the past year over 100 Muslims and Christians from Luton have gone through our training course, “Breaking the Silence” where they have worked together to understand what CSE really is, how it takes place and how it can be prevented.  There are lots of myths and misconceptions that cloud our perception of this kind of abuse, so it’s really important that clear messages are available that cut through some of the confusion.  The course has been developed by experts on the basis of research on CSE, and is delivered together by Christian and Muslim members of the FACES team. During July we delivered the course to some 150 Muslim leaders in London, Birmingham and Manchester. Across all three locations we encountered men and women who were clear in their determination to challenge CSE wherever they saw it.

It is our hope that the police and agencies in Huddersfield will be able to pursue this case to achieve full justice for the victims and sentencing of perpetrators, and our prayers are for all victims and their families.  We also hope and pray our fellow Mosques and Churches there will be able to play their part in the healing of both individuals and the wider communities affected,

 

Note: Full details of FACES Luton and its members can be found at http://faces.org.uk  . 

Focus Group Launch

FACES (Faiths Against Child Sexual Exploitation) are launching a series of 4 focus groups that will give you the opportunity to participate in our work. Come and join like-minded people for discussion, sharing ideas and helping to shape some of our training for different contexts. The focus groups will be:

  1. Youth in Mosques
  2. Youth in Churches
  3. Youth in Schools
  4. Fundraising strategy

Our first date is set for “Youth in Mosques” – May 2nd, 1pm @ Luton Central Mosque

Email: operator.faces@gmail.com to book your place to attend this exciting workshop.

FACES fg Poster FULL

Download our poster to advertise this event here.

Survivor Stories

These are case studies from research on CSE. They are voiced by actors, but the accounts are adapted from, and faithful to, victims’ real experiences.

#FACEit Update

Over 100 people attended our #FACEit Conference on 15th March and we would like to thank everybody who was involved. Members from local faith groups, businesses, the Council, Police, Schools, as well as charities such as the Children’s Society and Barnardos, were represented.

BBC Three Counties Radio covered the event and described it as a, “High-powered conference” and “Brilliantly run.” Listen to two clips from the show, which was broadcasted on Sunday 18th March 2018 here:

Our prominent speakers were very well received and their emotive and informative presentations made a huge impact on the audience. In particular, Sara Rowbotham’s honest account of her experiences in Rochdale gripped the listeners and brought many to tears.

One member of the public expressed, “It’s hard to believe this stuff actually happens. Luton needs you FACES.”

Several agencies applauded the work of FACES and expressed their desire to work together to safeguard young people.

We have been encouraged by the influx of positive enthusiasm for our work to continue and are expectant about the strong partnerships that are forming.

To support the work of FACES financially so that we can keep running, please find bank details here: STANDING ORDER FORM

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#FACEit Conference

FACES are pleased to announce our upcoming conference, headlined “#FACEit.” The aim of this conference is to raise awareness about our recent work, inform participants about the realities of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) in Luton and invite partnerships that will help develop and mobilise our aims.

We have an exciting timetable for the evening, including a report from our local survey in Luton from within faith communities and insights from our guest speaker Sara Rowbotham (BBC series Three Girls was based on her work in Rochdale).

If you are interested in attending this event in Luton, please contact: operator.faces@gmail.com

New definition and guidance

In February, the Department for Education released an updated definition of CSE with guidance for professionals. The University of Bedfordshire was commissioned to write the guidance that accompanies the statutory definition, and you can read it here

The new definition is as follows:

Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. It occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator.3 The victim may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.

The guidance covers

  • Different features and forms of CSE
  • The nature and impact of this abuse
  • Some of the key complexities (e.g. ‘constrained choice’ and low levels of professional identification of the abuse and children talking about what is happening)
  • Prevention, protection and prosecution

Here is an excerpt from page 17 that helps us make sense of the idea that a child may be ‘choosing’ to engage in sexual activity, which is one of the biggest reasons adults don’t intervene to try to stop the abuse.

“Whilst some young people may ‘choose’ to exchange sex to meet their needs, it is critical to recognise that they are doing so within the context of limited alternative options. Such ‘choices’ are better understood as ‘constrained choices’ or ‘survival strategies’ (a way of meeting needs when other means are not available) and do not make the nature of the act any less abusive. The fact that all such scenarios are characterised by a power imbalance in favour of those perpetrating the abuse and/or some form of vulnerability or limited choice on the part of the victim clearly distinguishes the experiences as abusive.

For example, a homeless 17 year old may ‘choose’ to exchange sex for a place to stay, rather than sleep on the streets. A 14 year old may ‘choose’ to exchange sex for drugs because using drugs is the only way they can cope with the memories of previous abuse. A 16 year old may ‘choose’ to leave a placement (where they are physically safe) and get in a car with several men who they suspect are going to rape them, as they have been told if they don’t, their younger sibling will be raped. All can be argued to be ‘making choices’, but all are doing so from a position of vulnerability, fear or need. None is making an ‘active lifestyle choice’ or is any less a victim because of that ‘choice’.”

Boys can be victims too

On the 23rd November 2016, the NSPCC launched a helpline offering support to anyone who was sexually abused in football as a child. It followed a series of disclosures from ex-footballers about the abuse they suffered in high-profile clubs across the country.

Boys are over 5 times less likely to contact Childline about sexual abuse than girls, according to the NSPCC, so it is particularly important that we recognise how significant this shift is.

Victims of abuse can feel so much shame, despite the fact that they have done nothing wrong. For boys and young men there are all sorts of beliefs about being male that can compound that shame and make it even harder to tell anyone.

If you or anyone you know need to speak to someone about what they’ve experienced and feels ready to do that here is a list of helplines including some that are just for men http://www.itv.com/thismorning/rape-helplines

 

Launching FACES

On July 20 a group of Christians and Muslims in Luton launched FACES – Faiths Against Child Sexual Exploitation.  It was the first milestone in a journey where a group of us had come together to engage with one of the great scourges of our society, the sexual abuse of children and young people by men, women, and sometimes their fellow youth.

Representatives of the Christian and Muslim communities spoke, as did local researchers from the University of Bedfordshire who work in the field, and a parent whose child has experienced exploitation. There were attendees from the local authority, police, charities and faith groups, and a clear sense of commitment to tackling the problem of abuse.