Leading dad blogger and regular insideMAN contributor John Adams explains why he's supporting a new campaign to highlight the specific issues faced by boys who have experienced sexual exploitation.
The Children’s Society is a charity that I’ve long admired. I’ve always liked the fact it works on campaigns and helps those marginalised by society; refugee children and sexually exploited kids being just two groups it helps out.
The charity recently launched a new campaign to assist older teens who are being sexually exploited or at risk of being so. The campaign is called #SeriouslyAwkward and it aims to highlight the fact that older teens aged 16 and 17 have little legal protection. Welfare and social services are also thin on the ground for youngsters in this age group.
Individuals of this age can consent to sexual activity. Vulnerable teens, those from unsupportive families or those in care, can find themselves being exploited.
'Abused boys are left out of the discussion'
At this point I have a declaration of interest to make. I have been taken on board as a blogging ambassador by The Children’s Society to raise awareness of the #SeriouslyAwkward campaign (let me stress this is an unpaid role). It follows the publication of a report called Old enough to know better? Why sexually exploited older teens are being overlooked.
When there is discussion and debate about sexual exploitation and abuse, it often focuses on girls and women.
The charity is particularly keen to raise awareness of the fact this is also an issue for boys. It turns out that one on four of the young people supported by The Children’s Society’s sexual exploitation projects are boys.
In addition to this, young males face distinctive issues. They will frequently internalise harmful stereotypes of masculinity, thinking they need to be tough and defend themselves, refusing to talk about the abuse they endure. They worry about experiencing homophobia if people find out they are victims of abuse.
'Boys less likely to report abuse'
Worryingly, boys are less likely to report abuse. Only 1 boy for every 10 girls aged 16 and 17 reported a sexual assault or rape to 25 police forces in England in the last year.
There’s also evidence that professionals are undertrained for dealing with male sexual exploitation. The Children’s Society says that referrals to specialist projects jump when training on how boys are affected by sexual exploitation is given to social care, education, health and law enforcement professionals.
No one is suggesting that boys’ needs are more important than those of girls. Exploitation is a massive issue for females too. It transpires that one in ten 16 and 17 year old girls claim to have experienced a sexual offence over the past year.
Unfortunately, boys’ issues are not as high profile. This is something that has to change.
Nothing can bring this issue to life more than a personal story. This one, on The Children’s Society website, tells the story of Luke.
It demonstrates how young people can fall through the cracks and end up at risk of abuse.
So what can you do? You can visit The Children’s Society’s website and join the #SeriouslyAwkward campaign that calls for greater legal protection for older teens. You can also donate and help The Children’s Society provide support services for those at risk or already being abused.
For those that do help out and get involved, thank you for your efforts.
John Adams is a married stay at home dad with two young daughters. He was previously a journalist and PR / communications professional but gave this up in 2010 to be a homemaker and look after the children.
In 2012 he launched a parenting blog focused on his experiences as a “man that holds the babies” called Dadbloguk.com and he now writes for a variety of different publications in addition to his own blog.
Photo: Flickr/Jake Stimpson