Sputnik: What is the importance of prevention and disruption when it comes to CSE?
Penelope Welbourne: The problem, as I'm sure everyone would agree, is that there are so many young people who need support because they are on the edge of becoming involved in CSE (Child Sexual Exploitation).
Perhaps they are already involved in it, or need help to terminate their involvement; perhaps they need therapeutic work afterwards. So that's the problem that we have. The solution is not just to give them support, which obviously they do need, but to try and prevent young people from becoming involved in that kind of abuse in the first place.
Sputnik: Do you think that cases like these should be commissioned by the local council of the area affected, or by the government as a whole?
Penelope Welbourne: I think the question about who carries out the inquiries is a delicate one. I think the response to the problem is generally to send in the central government to sort it out. That's quite difficult for a local area as well.
People should be supported, to look at the problems in their area, dispassionately, impartially. Have a good hard look and try and find solutions to them. But there is a point at which you really need to say 'ok this really hasn't been working and perhaps we need somebody to come in from the outside and help sort this one out.' It's a delicate line as to where you stop giving people the responsibility for sorting out the problems and you start giving someone else the responsibility to sort them out.
Sputnik: What could be done to prevent these activities from taking place?
Penelope Welbourne: There are a number of things that can be done to disrupt the activities of people who are involved in abusing children and young people.
It needs to be made more difficult for them to recruit young people and to find places to take them where they can basically carry out their business. One of the key things is multi-agency working, as is the answer to so many problems related to child protection. They are problems that are complex, they don't happen randomly. One of the questions that one might ask is why Telford? Why has this happened there? Is it really different from what's happening in other places or are we just learning more about it? So any attempt to solve the problem needs to think about what's happening in a much wider context than just Telford. It would need to involve the police.
It would need to involve people concerned with licensing premises, where abusive behavior happens. It would involve contacting people who are involved in a wide range of night economy activities, including a lot of legal activities that happen at night, which may be relevant for the people who are carrying out these kinds of activities, trafficking young people, and so forth. It needs to be a multi-agency response and it does need funding, but I think repeated inquiries into sexual abuse and sexual exploitation of young people, have found that one of the really important things that changes people’s perceptions and awareness, is understanding the nature of the victimization that happens in these cases.
Sputnik: Normally, there is quite a focus on the victims. There has been quite a focus on the traffickers, the gangs, to the people who have organized cases of child exploitation. Particularly in a scenario wherein you've got a smaller number of people organizing a high level of abuse. But maybe a piece of the jigsaw or the area that is not being highlighted is actually- who are the people who are buying into this?
Penelope Welbourne: I think it is interesting that we don't seem to know a great deal about who those people are, and what is happening to make sure that people who think about getting involved with people who are trafficking young people for sex really think very hard before getting involved with it. Who are these people? What is their motivation? What can we do to make it a very unattractive prospect for those people to get involved in the exploitation of young people?
The views and opinions expressed by Penelope Welbourne are those of the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.