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Social and political narratives about child sexual abuse

This half-day seminar explored child sexual abuse narratives and the way in which they have affected the practice of institutions and professionals responsible for preventing and responding to it. By narratives, we mean the language, terminology, and sets of ideas that have shaped the way in which people understand what child sexual abuse is, who it happens to, and who perpetrates it.

The Inquiry held a half day seminar on the afternoon of Monday 26th February exploring social and political narratives about child sexual abuse.

Child sexual abuse is understood and talked about in different ways. Different groups in society - including politicians, journalists and professionals working with children and young people - have different ways of thinking about child sexual abuse that are informed by their particular experiences and perspectives. These ways of thinking, or narratives, often incorporate ideas about how and why child sexual abuse takes place, who perpetrates it, who becomes a victim and survivor, how common an experience it is and what impact it has. In turn these narratives influence how people prevent and respond to child sexual abuse. For example, if child sexual abuse is believed to only occur in the context of the family abuse that occurs in other settings such as institutions may be overlooked.   

This seminar focused on narratives about child sexual abuse that currently exist in England and Wales at the time of the seminar, including those that we hear in the media or in political discussions. There was a specific focus on narratives around child sexual exploitation, including if and how child sexual exploitation differs from other forms of child sexual abuse; peer-on-peer abuse; and online abuse. The seminar included a discussion about how existing ways of thinking and talking about child sexual abuse help or hinder effective and sensitive responses to child sexual abuse, and how best to challenge unhelpful narratives where necessary. 

The documents below contain further information about the seminar, including the agenda.

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