Connect Centre Webinar- Dr Sarah Lloyd
She doesn’t have to get in the car … exploring social workers’ understandings of sexually exploited girls as agents and choice-makers
This seminar draws on qualitative research with social work professionals from three local authorities in England to explore social workers’ understandings of the agency and choice-making of girls who are sexually exploited within the home by family members and outside the home, by extra-familial persons. The social workers’ understandings of girls’ agency, and in turn their safeguarding response, was significantly shaped by where, and by whom the girl had been abused or exploited. Girls sexually exploited outside the home are understood to have more choice about whether to be in sexually exploitative situations; whereas girls sexually abused in the home are understood to have no choice about being in their situations. Social workers can struggle to reconcile the tension of understanding sexually exploited girls as choice-makers, without blaming them for those choices. A new discourse is needed around social work, and safeguarding generally, in which girls, whether sexually abused in the home or exploited outside the home, can be recognised as choice makers and agents but are not blamed for their agency. Indeed, their agency should be encouraged and enabled in positive directions.Dr Sarah Lloyd is a trainer and consultant at Parents Against Child Exploitation (PACE) a national charity working with parents who have a child that is at risk of, or is being sexually and/or criminally exploited.