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Title: Social workers' understandings of child sexual exploitation and sexually exploited girls
Author: Lloyd, Sarah W.
ISNI:       0000 0004 7232 4442
Awarding Body: University of Huddersfield
Current Institution: University of Huddersfield
Date of Award: 2016
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In recent year’s child sexual exploitation has received significant attention in the UK politically, publically, and in the media. In particular, high profile cases involving groups of men and adolescent girls have resulted in criticism directed towards safeguarding services. Of specific concern is whether sexually exploited young people have been safeguarded, as they should have been. If they have not been, is this because safeguarding professionals understand young people to be ‘making a choice’ to be in sexually exploitative situations and therefore they are ‘left to it’. Thus, this doctoral research considers how social workers understand CSE, with a focus on the social workers’ understandings of sexually exploited girls as choice-makers and agents. Eighteen social workers, from three local authorities, within one region in England were interviewed. The interviewees work in all areas of safeguarding. To further elicit the social workers’ understandings of sexually exploited girls, the interviewees’ understandings of girls sexually abused in the home were also explored. How girls' choice-making and agency are understood and responded to, depending on where, and by whom they have been abused/exploited, is explored. The methodology is qualitative and adopts a social constructionist, feminist approach utilising thematic analysis. The social workers understand that CSE happens to a certain ‘type’ of girl: one who is likely to be socially and economically deprived; that is why the social workers understand she is vulnerable to CSE. The interviewees have complex understandings regarding who is to blame for CSE and the lack of overt blame placed on the perpetrators, alongside significant culpability placed on the girls, is striking. Moreover, the confluence of choice-making and blame within the interviewees’ epistemological framework concerning CSE and sexually exploited girls is of specific note. The social workers ‘wrestle’ with their understandings of sexually exploited girls as choice-makers, this is because they associate choice with blame and this leaves them conflicted. The way in which they resolve this conflict is to invalidate certain choices that girls make which they understand ‘result’ in her being exploited, in order not to blame her. The research concludes that social workers need to separate out choice-making from blame and recognise that sexually exploited girls make choices, within a context but that they should never be blamed for making those choices. Furthermore, their agency needs to be encouraged and enabled in positive directions and blame should always and unequivocally be placed on the perpetrators.
Supervisor: Woodiwiss, Jo ; Hearn, Jeff Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: H Social Sciences (General) ; HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare