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‘I Have My Life Back’: Recovering from Child Sexual Exploitation

Palmer, E and Foley, M (2016) ‘I Have My Life Back’: Recovering from Child Sexual Exploitation. British Journal of Social Work, 47 (4). pp. 1094-1110. ISSN 0045-3102


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Despite intense focus on child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the UK, little is known about how and why some young people recover well from sustained exploitation by multiple perpetrators. Using thematic analysis, three published memoirs by young people (female) about their sexual exploitation by groups of men in the UK are analysed for insight into what contributes to positive short- and long-term outcomes. Despite the populist nature of the publications, the memoirs offer an important insight into young people’s understandings of their exploitation. The rich detail inherent to memoir exposes the complexities and dilemmas faced by the young people and the professionals involved. Being listened and believed by family and professionals is the most significant aspect to positive adaptation post exploitation in these accounts. However, the dynamics of grooming and the nature of contemporary social work intervention and investigation render disclosure difficult. As these accounts illustrate, CSE is characterised by uncertainty and complexity, and this is the domain in which social work needs to intervene more successfully to support young people.

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