The Serious Case Review surrounding Operation Bullfinch highlights clear failures to protect girls within our local area. It is now clear that a lack of understanding of the laws regarding consent and a limited understanding of guidance related to the exploitation of children led to crimes against them not being understood or recorded as such. This in turn resulted in a lack of curiosity and follow through from statutory bodies which meant that the girls were let down by the very systems which were designed to protect them.
OSARCC welcomes the launch of new ways to try and prevent such failings from happening in the future. The development of the multi-agency Kingfisher Team to investigate potential sexual exploitation, training in schools, and work with children to help them understand sexual exploitation go some way to ensuring that future generations are protected from harm. We must ensure that statutory services are resourced to spot warning signs and to prevent and protect people from abuse, and make sure that these systems and services are sustained in the longer term.
This new review comes in the wake of government investigations into historic child abuse, and other episodes of exploitation around the country and it highlights that the issue of sexual abuse is not something we can continue to ignore. Instead, the review clearly demonstrates a need to create opportunities for girls and women to speak out about abuse for which they are in no way responsible, and to believe them when they do so.
These different investigations also remind us all that the sexual abuse of children and young people is endemic in society, across all communities. The perpetration and experience of sexual abuse is not confined to one group of people, it affects everyone – especially girls and women - regardless of background. It is about the exploitation of vulnerable young women and girls by those with power.
OSARCC therefore strongly supports the campaign for compulsory sex and relationship education. Schools must be a place where all young people can access information on recognising abuse as well as knowledge about how to seek support. We hope that the Bullfinch review will encourage schools and other partners across the country to collaborate more closely with local Rape Crisis Centres to develop and deliver more vital preventative work with children and young people focussed on issues including grooming, consent and healthy relationships.
We also need to ensure that support agencies such as Rape Crisis Centres continue to be sustained at both a local and national level, so that specialist services are able to support survivors when abuse does occur. This includes both financial support to ensure centres can remain open and meet the growing demand for services, and using the 40 years’ experience and knowledge of the Rape Crisis network to help shape and inform policy. As the Bullfinch case so clearly shows, effective protection for young people requires all agencies to come together and share their expertise, understanding and ideas.
We warmly encourage any woman or girl whose life has been affected by sexual abuse or exploitation of any kind to contact our centre for support. We also support the family members, friends or other supporters of survivors. Our helpline, email support, ISVA service, and weekly support groups provide confidential, independent and specialist support. Call 0800 783 6294, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.oxfordrapecrisis.net.
Click here to read the full case review