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Community awareness raising on child sexual exploitation: possibilities and problems

Sukhwant Dhaliwal (International Centre: Researching Child Sexual Exploitation, Violence and Trafficking, University of Bedfordshire, Luton, Bedfordshire, United Kingdom.)
Kate D'Arcy (Department of Applied Social Studies, University of Bedfordshire, Luton, Bedfordshire, United Kingdom.)
Roma Thomas (International Centre: Researching Child Sexual Exploitation, Violence and Trafficking, University of Bedfordshire, Luton, Bedfordshire, United Kingdom.)

Safer Communities

ISSN: 1757-8043

Article publication date: 12 January 2015

Abstract

Purpose

A number of reports on child sexual exploitation (CSE) have pointed to the importance of community awareness raising as a preventative measure, a means of extending the reach of CSE services and widening the scope of social responsibility to protect children. However, little has been said about how to undertake such activities; how to do this well and the potential pitfalls to avoid. The purpose of this paper is to draw out critical questions about the notion of community and highlight what can be learnt from historical debates about multiculturalist practice. While the paper does not focus solely on ethnic minority communities, the authors do take stock of pertinent points from that literature in relation to issues of engagement, power and representation and applicable learning for awareness raising around CSE. In the second half of the paper, the authors consider the issue of awareness raising within communities. The authors draw on the limited literature on community awareness raising in CSE, contextualising this with reference to relevant learning from other pertinent bodies of work, to reflect on implications for practice.

Design/methodology/approach

This is a conceptual paper based on a review of various bodies of literature. The first half reviews the literature about community, community engagement, and multiculturalism as policy and practice. The second half draws evidence from the literature on forms of awareness raising on CSE and other sensitive social issues to discuss implications for practice arising from the authors’ reflections on the literature.

Findings

The review produces three key findings. First, the need to transfer historic insights into the limits of “community” and multiculturalism and apply these to the emergent field of CSE. Second, despite theoretical distinctions between “community” and “society”, evidence from the literature suggests that the term “community” is being applied more generally to refer to a wide range of events and practices. Third, the authors conclude with some points about what may work well for CSE professionals developing work in this field; that is, clear aims and objectives, nuanced approaches and targeted messages.

Research limitations/implications

This is an under-researched area where there are currently no published evaluations of community awareness raising interventions for CSE. Effective evidence-based strategies for engaging communities are urgently needed for CSE prevention work to be extended in positive ways which protect those affected.

Originality/value

This paper is original in drawing insights from historical debates about multiculturalist practice to inform thinking on community awareness raising on CSE. It makes a valuable contribution by bringing together insights from a number of distinct bodies of literature in ways which can inform practice.

Keywords

Citation

Dhaliwal, S., D'Arcy, K. and Thomas, R. (2015), "Community awareness raising on child sexual exploitation: possibilities and problems", Safer Communities, Vol. 14 No. 1, pp. 4-15. https://doi.org/10.1108/SC-03-2015-0010

Publisher

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Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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