My name is Kerrie Rouy, and am a MACYS student the University of Sussex. I have a research interest in Child Sexual Exploitation/ Trafficking. My main reason for this blog is for a space to reflect on what I took away from the day at the UK Gathering of Stop The Traffik (STT), and questions I have been exploring. I enjoy academia; I had a break and have come back into it, self-motivated and hungry for knowledge. I do however understand the importance of ground-level research and this is something I am interested in pursuing in further education, exploring ethnographic and longitudinal work.
As I travelled to London unsure of what to expect of the day, I began my usual thought process ‘how can I stop these vulnerable children from being sexually exploited?’ – Talk about broad. On reflection, why or how would I know what to do? I’ve read up a lot on CSE, and preventative practice but regardless of how much you read, it is our own experiences that inform our perspectives and knowledge and my practical and lived experience here is minimal.
I went up to the fourth floor of the Oasis College in London feeling dedicated for spending my limited funds and a Saturday going to London, but I also felt apprehensive. I am just a Masters student, are all the people there going to know so much more than me that I will be out of my depth and unable to learn anything? However, determined to increase my knowledge and understanding – I pushed the boundaries of my comfort zone and wore my best smile.
We had to sign up for a workshop, and I had no idea which to go in. I am not a professional; I am just a student with a need to know more. So I decided I would get a feel for the organisation first in their introductory session before choosing my workshops. We all took a seat and the CEO came in full of life and enthusiasm and put me straight at ease.
Ruth discussed the current complexity, and the need to reach simplicity – which she believes comes down to three cogs for a wheel to turn – community turns the cogs. Each cog: Awareness, Knowledge, Campaigning is to see, to know, to do. We don’t know how prevention is working because it is hard to measure something that has not happened and potentially won’t happen.
To see, to know, to do.
Through whose perspective are we becoming aware? Through whose perspective are we gaining this knowledge? And through whose perspective are we making decisions on the campaigns? This is not even directed at STT, but moral questions I have found myself thinking. Activists, campaigners and researchers – through whose perspective are you seeing this [sexual] exploitation? We are reactive to the reports that come out and we all want justice for these children but are we asking these children and young people what exactly their perspective is?
Are we asking these children and young people what knowledge and understanding they have? Are we asking them about their view on campaigns? Awareness and campaigning have their place certainly. This is not about awareness; this is about knowledge and understanding. More than that, this knowledge and understanding should be explored from an authentic source – the [sexually] exploited children and young people. So I need not have worried about being just a Masters student, because really we are all just activists with knowledge and understanding who do not hold the same perspective of those children and young people. Only they can tell us how THEY see, how THEY know and how THEY do – from THEIR perspective, with THEIR world-views.
If research can find any commonalities in their responses – Then that should inform the work of researchers and practitioners to build prevention and intervention programmes. Ethically and emotionally I feel this would be a difficult conversation to have, but one with great value. I feel we cannot rely on Government reports and statistics to indubitably guide the direction of research. We need ethnographi and longitudinal research on the authentic perspectives of children and young people that have been sexually exploited in the UK. Until we have this dialogue, I fear we will continue to react to media biases and moral panic.
To see, to know, to do.