16 Days Of Action event focuses on CSE
Our Violence Against Women Partnership recently held its pan-Ayrshire practitioner event on Commercial Sexual Exploitation (CSE) at Kilmarnock’s Park Hotel.
Led by Linda Thompson from the Women’s Support Project, the event was an opportunity to benefit from the work, research and training of the project, to hear the voices of women with lived experience and to learn from practitioners and academics.
Siobhan Brown, Minister for Victims and Safer Communities, and Councillor Maureen Chalmers, COSLA spokesperson for Community Wellbeing, were also in attendance.
As CSE is largely underreported, the event focused on building a network of practitioners across Ayrshire who are developing the skills and knowledge to better support the women involved in it.
Linda highlighted the need for “courageous conversations” regarding the prevalence of sexualised content in our everyday lives and the technology “developed specifically to abuse women and girls”:
“What happens online has an impact offline. The internet and the role of technology has ushered in the assimilation of the sex industry, in particular porn, into all elements of our culture, to the very extent that we don’t even see it. It has become the wallpaper in our private and our public lives…where we have the sex industry rebranded as entertainment.
Violence against women and girls has been associated with attitudes, values and beliefs that basically say that men are entitled to access women’s bodies.
We have to start looking at where these messages and beliefs come from. We have to look at what drives the dehumanisation and objectification of women, where women are made into things for others’ use.”
Attendees then heard from Laura Jones, Teaching Fellow and Researcher at Abertay University, who spoke about trauma-informed practice and the importance of being direct when supporting women and girls involved in CSE:
“Ask the questions. If you suspect someone might be involved in selling sex, just ask them. Show that you’re not somebody who’s scared to talk about it. If you ask the question and you’re really direct with it, people know they can talk to you.”
Next on stage was Sally Hendry from the Routes Out service, which offers non-judgemental advice and support to women who sell sex:
“We offer emotional and practical support. In my experience the practical support comes first. We look at what the woman needs.
It takes a long time to build up a relationship with a woman and sometimes it can years for a woman to trust you because she’s perhaps been let down many times by social work, police and society in general.
Our main thing is a woman’s safety. We give her as much safety information as we can and make sure she has sexual health services, GP services, addiction services…whatever she needs, we’ll try and provide it.”
Our final speaker was Laura Nacyte of the Women’s Support Project, who raised the importance of “the little things” practitioners can do which make the biggest difference in supporting women in CSE:
“It’s those little things that matter most when we talk about trauma-informed practice. I hope you will be able to leave this event knowing that trauma-informed practice doesn’t have to be over complicated.
Its biggest potential lies in those moment to moment interactions…the language you use and our actions which communicate compassion and attentiveness to the women we support.”
Many thanks to all who attended this important and necessary event. While difficult to sit through at many points, it raised much-needed awareness of the uncomfortable truth of Commercial Sexual Exploitation and called upon all of us to do more to support the women involved in it.
To find out more about CSE, including links to support, visit the Safer Scotland website.