Home Truths about Child Sexual Abuse: Influencing Policy and Practice - A Reader

By Catherine Itzin | Go to book overview

14

Helping girls involved in 'prostitution'

A Barnardos experiment

Sara Swann


Introduction

Barnardos is the largest childcare charity in the United Kingdom, operating over 200 childcare services nationwide. Established in the nineteenth century, Barnardos focused on child rescue, working with street children in East London, and it is an interesting reflection that while it has grown and developed to meet the demands of the 1990s, it has recognised the need for services for 'child prostitution' a hundred years later. Barnardos is committed to the development and maintenance of innovative work with children and young people. It is committed to working in partnership with other agencies, and most importantly with children and young people themselves, seeking to promote within its work the needs and rights of children, as embodied in the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child. I was the social worker employed by Barnardos to run the Streets and Lanes Project (SALs) in Bradford which is the subject of this chapter. Subsequently, I have been responsible for establishing similar projects in other areas of the UK.

In March 1995, Barnardos' Streets and Lanes Project (SALs) became operational. The project, supported and jointly funded by Bradford statutory agencies, provides services for girls and young women up to the age of seventeen who are at risk of, or involved in, what is commonly referred to as 'prostitution'. In order to inform our practice, we needed to know how a young woman became involved, why she stayed and what if anything, would support her in finding a safer future. In its first two years, we had contact with nearly a hundred children, girls between the ages of twelve and seventeen years of age, and we spent considerable time listening to their life stories and coming to understand their situation. The evidence from this work at SALs has given us a model for understanding the issues and this paper explains the process.


How girls become involved in prostitution

Talking to these girls, we have come to recognise a pattern of control, which not only facilitates their entry into the system, but creates a complete dependency which sustains their abuse through 'prostitution'. This is quite a defined process,

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