The purpose of this paper is to explore the links between forced marriage, running away/going missing and child sexual exploitation.
An extensive research review and interviews with experts and practitioners across the three fields identified a total of 22 cases in which young people (aged 18 and under) had experienced some combination of all three issues. Of these, nine case studies involving South Asian young people were explored in depth using a case study methodology.
Through adopting constitutive intersectionality as an analytical framework, the power of “community” emerged as a distinct theme within the cases. Concern about both family and community “honour” impacted young people’s decision making and help seeking processes. “Honour” also impacted parental responses to the young people as well as how they engaged with the professionals seeking to support them.
The safety of mothers also emerged as an issue, suggesting that this is an area for further research.
Practical implications for practice included: the need to address barriers to young people disclosing abuse and entering into the criminal justice process; difficulties associated with finding safe spaces to work with young people; the need to identify effective ways of working with abused young people who are unable to draw on relational and social support; and dangers associated with accessing support services.
An extensive review of the relevant research literature failed to uncover links between forced marriage, going missing and child sexual exploitation. This led the author to assert that the risk of child sexual exploitation as it relates to young South Asian young people who run away from home to escape forced marriage has been both under-acknowledged and under-explored (Sharp, 2013). Empirical research undertaken by the author over a 15-month period confirmed this assertion.
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