Children are being let down by the criminal justice system and this report highlights the issues outlined in the Casey report – the sad reality is that the Met police has a deep-rooted culture of misogyny and victim-blaming. 1 in 6 girls are estimated to have experienced child sexual exploitation before the age of 16 , and they are being left without safety or justice; over half of the investigations examined were rated as inadequate.
We know from 25 years of working with women and girls affected by domestic abuse and other forms of male violence that the initial police response is vital in protecting women and girls. And yet we see a wilful misunderstanding of child sexual exploitation within the police – 12 in every 100 children being in some way blamed for the abuse they suffered. Young girls under the age of consent are being described as ‘seeking out sex with older men’ and in some cases being discouraged from reporting their sexual abuse and rape.
The effect of childhood sexual exploitation is long-lasting and a poor response from the police can have a life-long negative impact on a survivor’s trust in policing and the whole criminal justice system. It can also negatively impact their future relationships. An Advance report looking at how early sexual experiences impacted young women and girls within our criminal justice services found that the majority had experience of child sexual abuse. The average age of their first sexual experience was 12, while 16 years old was the average age of their partner.
Young women and girls are being let down. They disproportionally experience violence and abuse, and yet there is a lack of specialist support which factors in both their age and gender. We urgently need specialist services for young women and girls to prevent further harm, abuse, and exploitation, as well as contact with the criminal justice system. This needs to be delivered in collaboration with criminal justice agencies, along with schools, social care, and health services.
We have no doubt that there are excellent officers within the Met who are passionate about protecting and safeguarding children; however, there are undoubtable issues which prevent them from doing so. The report highlights what we already know about the serious gaps in training, knowledge and understanding around the dynamics of child sexual exploitation and violence against women and girls, as well as issues around misogyny and adultification of young girls, and specifically Black girls. We must see a radical shift in the culture within the police. They must develop specific responses to girls, recognising the systemic bias, racism, sexism, and misogyny that exists within structural systems, and ensure there is clear leadership to tackle those biases.
Child safeguarding must be an absolute priority and there must be a zero tolerance to rhetoric which seeks to blame girls for their own abuse, and as a result leave them unprotected from predators.
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-  Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (2022) The Report of the Independent Inquiry Into Child Sexual Abuse
- The findings of a new HM Inspectorate report into the Met’s handling of child sexual exploitation can be found HERE
- Advance’s vision is a world in which women and children lead safe, equal, violence-free lives so that they can flourish and actively contribute to society. The charity works with women who experience domestic abuse to be safe and take control of their lives, and women who have committed crime or are at risk of offending to break the cycle.
- Women must be referred to Advance, via statutory services or the charity’s self-referral scheme. For more information about who Advance is able to support, please visit Get Help
- For facts and statistics about domestic abuse and women in the criminal justice system, as well as Advance’s work, please visit Our Impact