Sexual exploitation of children

Yesterday James put up what is below on Facebook:

Desi Olson's photos

‎1-An estimated one million children are forced to work in the global sex industry every year

2-The global sex slavery market generates a $39 billion profit annually

3-Selling young girls is more profitable than trafficking drugs or weapons

Celebrities are taking part in Real Men Don't Buy Girls campaign. Be part in this campaign and spread awareness...

It is scarily interesting for me to see this and I am impressed that James took note and put it up. Fine, he is a photographer and is probably led by Olson’s work. At least that is my guess. It is also one of the kinds of surprising and occasionally diversionary items that Catharine and James include. This, as with others, received little attention.

So what am I getting uppity about then? Story time: In the mid-1980s UNICEF began looking at what they refer to as ‘Children in Especially Difficult Circumstances’ (CEDC). My then wife was an academic looking at child labour in particular and part-time Child Labour Officer of the Anti-Slavery Society (now Anti-Slavery International) which is the oldest human rights organisation in existence and contributed very much to the end of slavery. They have since worked with what are considered modern forms of slavery including the sexual exploitation of children. Anyway, she was asked to take on writing reports on various aspects of CEDC. I was specialising in street children in those days, so my work went toward that report, her normal work put the child labour report together and then there was work compiling the report on the sexual exploitation (and abuse) of children. Unlike the campaign shown above implies, it is as likely to be boys as girls, newborn babes in arms (oh yes, there is a market for that!) to young adults.

Out of the latter a later by-product was that she wrote a book The sexual exploitation of children by Judith Ennew, Polity Press, Cambridge, 1986. It also appeared as L’Exploitation Sexuelle des Enfants, Éditions Eshel, Paris, 1987. For my sins, you will find my name accredited in the foreword. I shared a lot of that work in that I went out looking for sources of (illegal) child pornography, where child prostitutes could be found and other equally sordid details I do not wish to go into. Whilst I bought the publications (later incinerated) some of which I walked through UK and other countries’ customs with them in my hand luggage, I most certainly did not use any of the other services. That was the mid-1980s. The book was highly influential and there was a great deal of spin-off, including governmental actions. However, as with most things governments do, the interest was short lived. Today Desi Olson is publicising a campaign on Facebook, etc. How times do not change, it shocks me to say.

Recently a few of you will have picked up my opposition to the issue of smacking children. Sadly, and perhaps unbelievably for some of you, there is a correlation that made all forms of abuse abhorrent and were thus incorporated into the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which has been signed by all nations in the world and is awaiting ratification by two (Somalia and the USA) plus other international agreements I shall not go into.

So what the heck has this to do with Survive France Network? More than you probably think.

Firstly, France has a minister (or should have) who is responsible for children and there should be people employed by government working on this. Remember, not so long ago Luc Ferry, philosopher and former education minister, told a TV chat show that he knew that a former French minister had previously been caught at an orgy with young boys in Marrakech in Morocco. A Moroccan child protection NGO claimed it would file a legal complaint to demand an investigation, since under French law the authorities are able to investigate sex tourism or sex crimes committed abroad. Philosopher and writer Jean-François Kahn, who was on the chat show panel with Ferry told the website Arrêt Sur Images that after the programme, Ferry had told him the name of the former minister but then he also refused to reveal it. Rachida Dati, former justice minister, said that if Ferry knew something he must reveal the facts or else risked being charged with the offence of failing to report a crime. Sadly to say, the story faded away without any action.

I am unaware who Hollande has appointed as minister with responsibility for children, but suspect Najat Vallaud-Belkacem who has the mandate for women possibly has it. Somebody will have it whatever. Why is that so important?

Well, here is the second point. The sex trade is a vastly profitable business as the story James reproduced claims. It is also something children drift into for many reasons, including:

becoming involved through sexual abuse within the family or close environment and later involvement in prostitution,

simply being used unknowingly as infants without either knowledge or the ability to make any form of objection or protest to what is being done to them forcibly,

involvement in exclusively male prostitution of young boys and men as exploration of and the search of their sexual identity, income generation or abuse,

occasional prostitution (outside the main adult ‘sex market’) for a number of purposes including income generation, fun, etc.,

trafficking with an element of forced prostitution prior to international movement of boys and girls,

involvement in prostitution as a way out for victims of trafficking who have found refuge in other countries (including France),

the involvement in prostitution of young immigrants in irregular situations or asylum seekers,

the involvement in prostitution to finance the purchase of illegal drugs, etc.

All of this is likely to be happening not far from where you are. In the smallest town statistically it appears likely that at least a couple of children are being exploited in this way. It is far more common than most people wish to believe. France has attempted to do something about it, in fits and starts, but the Ferry story illustrates what is not really happening. Coincidentally, at the beginning of this week I had a Facebook discussion with an old pal Benedito Dos Santos who was the coordinator for the Movimento Nacional de Meninos e Meninas de Rua (MNMMR), the National Movement of Street Boys and Girls, in Brazil back in the 1980s. At present he is consulting for UNICEF on a 10-year Plan of Action for the whole country and also working on an action-research project about forensic interviews with sexually abused children. Brazil is a country that has done its damnedest to get to grips with the child sex industry, but now they need a new 10-year plan. My wife is about to start an exploratory research on this phenomenon in three or four Swiss cantons for a major international charity. Much of that will be in places people imagine are clean almost to the point of sterility. Beneath the squeaky clean exterior other devils lurk. So imagine what might be happening around you here in France, think of the misery children suffering this exploitation and abuse are undergoing. It is not just the rest of the world, it is everywhere.

James put up the story on Facebook, I told him I thought it belonged on the SFN main site and I am quite sure many of you will wonder why on earth I think that? Well, I simply wish to contribute to more people knowing about this sickening phenomenon, to be able to form an opinion and whilst I am certain very few of you will respond, at least I am sure that a fair few of you will at least read this. I would then encourage you to think about it and even if you cannot do anything to contribute to doing something about it, if you ever have the slightest suspicion you will know it may well be well founded and I would hope act on that suspicion.

It happened a few days ago in parliament, it makes the UK one of very few countries with that kind of legislation. Far to go yet.

Noticed on the uk news this morning it has become illegal to remain silent if you know of some kind of abuse. Step in the right direction.

Children nowadays seem to have everything done for them. Our girls helped Jim in the garden whilst I was cooking lunch and they can both cook, keep house and iron shirts beautifully, as well as both having responsible jobs. One is a Financial Investigating Oficer for one of the UK Constabularies and the other, as you know, works for Allianz Capital Partners in Munich, although where she will end up in the organisation after she returns from maternity leave is yet to be finalised.

Jane: That is how it was and never seemed bad, dangerous or whatever. For all my years of work in the field of childhood I have never worked out what we are doing in Europe (probably USA and a few others) to our children by (in my personal view) infantilising them until they are almost full grown adults.

Nothing wrong with Allianz. We use them, the local agent Jerôme and his Ozzie colleague Sylvia are good friends. It is my son, throw of the dice, who has become boring beyond belief and not because of his job. Even his teenage children and OH openly tell him that. Still my son though, that's life.

I was very ill when my daughter was only eight years old. She would make me some scrambled eggs for my breakfast and a cup of tea and then, together with her friend, she would then walk her younger sister to her school, before going on to theirs own. This was in a village and not in a town, but the idea is the same. She was brought up to be responsible, but was still a child and was not expected to be worldly wise, but she did help in the house.

By the way, Brian, she also works for Allianz!!

In the 1950s there was a flu epidemic, both my parents were very ill. My English was still shaky after only a few months of living in London. I shopped, I cooked and cleared up everything, walked the mile or so to the doctor's surgery to see him and indeed got a prescription which the chemist then fulfilled (under 18s are not served now in the UK). (Positive note - I have never had influenza in my nearly 64 years!). Anyway, the point is that children were trusted and responsible then and there seems to have been something totally inexplicable since, you'll agree. The report is interesting from many angles and the one you have picked out from the front page about not being wordly wise is true, but are more capable and competent than often assumed to be. I, of course, have worked where children of six are working instead of at school and often expected to do so with out adult supervision.

I, thus, despair for western society in the current climate and hope the rest pick up the pieces and do not make our inexcusable mistakes.

If any of you are interested. last month Reg Bailey published a report into the sexualisation and commercialisation of children called Let Children be Children. It was commission by the UK Dept of Education and by putting up the title you can find a pdf version of the entire report. If not, ask and I'll forward one. Interesting stuff, goes for here and many other places although a UK report.

Shirley - statements are as valid as questions. Where else does knowledge, discussion and so on come from?

Of course you are right. That is a huge, perhaps insurmountable part of the phenomenon (problem is perhaps the more popular word, but OK...). I spent a while with your like when I was a member of a consultant group to NACRO and I think our exchanges were similar. That is not criticism but a statement of the way things are. It is all about little steps toward dealing with a fairly sizeable issue.

If the occasional person is shopped/caught or whatever there is no doubt it will make others all the more careful. Many of us have argued for such cases not being given to the press for exactly that reason. The Home Office people seriously believed publicationof details, especially if well known people like rock stars (their example, would you be surprised?) are caught and especially if convicted.

Where it needs to go, always has and indeed is included in my OH's work at present, is in the effort to stem trafficking in particular but also to identify organised groups who are making a business of this stuff. Individuals is a chance thing, as you well know.

So yes, I concur with you.

Shoulder bulletin, since you asked: MRI scan shows no evidence of epilepsy and heart monitor shows no signs of arrhythmia, so what causes the seizures that seem to have caused it remain a mystery. Shoulder itself: Well 10 days ago the surgeon hung me from a two metre high coat hook by that hand to show how viable it is already. Three times a week painful physio and for another 10 months at least. I have roughly 30% use of my arm back but have had pins and needles in my forearm since the 'accident' which drive me nuts and will eventually see a neurologist to see whether it is nerve damage.

So, just about as complicated as children's rights by my books.

OK Keith's OH, my work with children began with SEN and one of my daughters is mosaic Down so of that type herself. Communication, the ability to use and do it are all important and it is where there are suspicions some of the worst abuses possbly happen. Your point about 'back off' is all too oftern the case, they are legion and all because the issue is too big for most to handle. For me that is the biggest imaginable contradiction. Apart from that I care not a jot who and how powerful the perpetrator is. If somebody pointed Charlie Windsor out and had evidence I would shop him and make sure it worked out - if you can excuse my extreme example.

Yes thanks for the thought provocation.

This is Keiths OH by the way - K being computer illerate.

I worked for several years back in the UK in Special Educational Needs, the severe end of the scale where most of the children cannot speak for themselves - lacking in communication. As a deputy head I had staff come to me with a suspected case sexual abuse - we were told in no uncertain terms by the powers that be - 'to back off'. Its extremely difficult as you say, when politics gets inthe way.

I am happy to click the Like several times on Facebook - since they think I am my OH, then the best of luck to whoever.

Facebook has some big flaws Graham - you found one. Nick's suggestion is very much appreciated and exactly what is the best action for spreading the message. Indeed, if you feel inlined feel free to copy the text to send on to those people - they will get the message.

Social services, start at your mairie or the council office of your district to find out how to get there. If it happens to be the maire you wish to turn in book your flight half way round the world or further!

I was a social worker in the UK but I have no idea how to report abuse of children in France. Hence my question...

What means are there to expose abuse and which authorities does one go to?

Absolutely Graham. It is a great way of making the message be heard. Leave it up there and when people ask, you can again pass on the message.

Hi Brian
Thanks for your note about Facebook --- not being a Facebook aficionado, it took me a while to locate the "unlike" or even "hide" buttons - but whichever, they just don't seem to work. I fully realise that your intentions where totally honourable and I impart no blame to you - merely at Facebook. However, maybe there is a silver lining: no-one I *know* would readily believe (I hope!!) that as a father of three and grandfather of six young children I would in any way approve of child abuse in any form - so maybe the comment being left visible will also stir up a little attention and just maybe someone will read, follow - and take some action! Child abuse cannot be condoned under any circumstance. Thanks for the thought provocation!

I am just back from physio-therapy for the broken shoulder and found these questions and decided to give you all responses but all in one, so look for your bit or the lot as you see fit. Thanks for the questions and comments though, it is encouraging to see them for somebody like myself.

Ian: That is one of those intractable problems. I am a researcher so do not have the godlike responsibility of lawmaking and enforcing. It is a problem, it happens and is sometimes not made good. Sadly, the other side of it is that most perpetrators know that what they are doing is illegal, morally wrong and so forth and thus cover so well they get away with it. So more get away than are caught and some of those ‘caught’ are not at all guilty but by means fair or foul are ruined for life. Sorry, it is not a satisfying answer BUT it is the dilemma that only ending the phenomenon could ever get close to resolving and the truth is that nobody who works in this field is that optimistic, human beings being what they are…

To your second question, to be able to talk about it is very important. A lot of children abused in this way grow up with personality problems and are unable to have relationships like other people – often they are afraid to fall in love even. One woman who works in this field herself went in for a very serious set of therapies before she was able to even go out with somebody. Then once married she had problems conceiving that meant she needed surgery but has since had two children, both by IVF though, she was messed up by some ‘uncles’…

Sarah: Poverty is one solution. However, children of wealthy people have been ‘seduced’ or ‘abducted’ because they are particularly ‘pretty’. So yes, a partial answer, but there are always other quirks in the background.

Graham: There is an ‘unlike’ there if you look for it, I think top right of each item when the ‘invisible’ menu appears. Sorry about that, not my intention as you can imagine.

Keith: I agree having had at least a toe in the topic on and off since about 1984. However, convince people in political office that that should be. A pigs might fly thing I am afraid.

Marianne: That was a thoughtful and very balanced response and I wish those of us in this professional environment could reach more people like you. Yes, children should know, be told in accordance with their ability to comprehend from very young and perhaps by 12 or 13 have it in adult language – after all that is when they are often most vulnerable. Apart from the short example I gave to Jane, I have not gone into detail but for people who wish to be informed there are charities and initiatives in the world who can give examples people can use to educate themselves and also for our children as they grow. Joining such organisations or at least supporting them makes a difference. However, don’t ask me to name one because in fact as a researcher I tend not to join them (or even remember names) because I would be in too many for the different areas I work in and face the accusation of prejudice toward one or the other. Web search and you will find, as goes for everybody else who wants more info it is available online if you look.

Andrew: If I did not act the clown much of the time, some of what I have done in research since about 1970 would have driven me nuts, literally. I don’t know if we deliberately set out to change the world. I set out to be an anthropologist researching the migration of young people in Peru but things evolve and once I had a foot in the children’s rights world (same author as mentioned in the piece here and I wrote what was the first ever children’s rights best seller!) it is commitment. Perhaps the world will be a better place for them one day, long after our time I sadly fear. If I also did not have the other interests in politics, economics, philosophy and so on then I would never have taught in universities, but those topics also help keep me sane.

Paul: Thank you. Well expressed. It goes well beyond prostitution and slavery as the idea of snuff movies with babies should imply. There is every depravity imaginable between. I travelled to such places as Amsterdam, Hamburg, Berlin, Rio de Janeiro, Cape Town, Hong Kong and many more to gather either published (i.e. porn) material, videos (it was pre-DVD days, so think how much easier it is now!) and signed affidavits from social workers, court workers, policemen and I must say that I started the work light hearted but some nights went to hotels and cried. My greatest pleasure was being allowed to take them to the incinerator at the Cambridge council rubbish place with a security officer to make sure I wasn’t ‘robbed’. I spent relatively little time looking at the books, mags, prints, videos and so on when I bought them. The researcher team who really did, including Judith my then partner, sank into deep depressions sometimes. Your point about a teacher hitting a child is close to the nub of it, adults so easily exert power over children and that makes it so easy. On the question of to report or what to do, I would claim that to know or even suspect is hard to live with and to report relieves that gnawing guilt inside. Hard but what else can we do. Taking power and justice into our own hands, lynch justice of one kind or another, is morally indefensible. Sometimes we must win over ourselves – I have turned people in and have no regrets. I grew up in a working class environment where nobody grassed on anybody else but even this would have been exempt from that rule.

Someone I know was abused by her relatives as a young child. The perpetrators are already dead and gone. Even though it was a long time ago that the events took place, once she confided in me a couple of years ago I spent a lot of time convincing her that she wasn't at fault. A very very difficult subject. Her relief at being able to unburden herself of this unjustified shame and guilt was profoundly touching.

I don't have a lot of time to expand the points I want to make but I do want to praise both Brian and James for keeping this in the public eye.

For most of you child prostitution will be unthinkable as a concept close to home, as Brian suggests, but it starts somewhere and for some reason. Most people think it is sexual gratification that provides the motivation for perpetrators but in fact it is the use of power and control, or rather its abuse, that is the primary reason. It is the prime motivation behind all forms of abuse.

So, why is it important to us on SFN? We import, as immigrants, the mores of our past lives and have expectations of how we and our children should be treated. Recently in another post someone talked of the gym teacher hitting a child and shouting at them. The child went to the teacher to apologise!!! The expectation was that the teacher must somehow be right. In fact the teacher was exercising power and control in an abusive way. He gained credence for his behaviour and acceptance that he was somehow right. He acquired domination over not only the child but the parents and those of us who agreed that he should impose discipline.

He also, should he now choose, acquired the cover to perpetrate further abuse.

Within our ordinary lives, someone abused in plain view. Unless the child is supported when they have been abused, others will continue to take such power and will abuse in plain view. I know of a case of sexual abuse near where I live, where it was the mother that was not only failing to protect but actively procuring men to abuse her. That has been dealt with. Sadly the child's injuries brought her to the attention of the authorities.

For those of us who have noticed something wrong and held a disquiet about it what do we do to deal with it? How does one report a suspicion? Does what we brought with us to France, the sensibilities and mores, give us the knowledge and courage to report? There are reams of papers on how to deal with French bureaucracy, please point out and high light the ones that deal with the misuse of power and the ability for even a teacher to get away with abuse in plain view. After all, that was but one point on the continuum of abuse that prostitution and slavery sit on.

Makes rather serious, stomach churning reading compared to our often light-hearted discusions but I too suspect that there's far more going on than we think, just hearing village gossip is enough to confirm that and yes I will report if I hear of any such going's on. Keep up the good work, both you and your OH, thankfully there are people like you two and others in this world who work for a better society and a better future for kids. a presto ;-)

Thank you Brian for writing this post. As you and others here said, it is important to talk about this subject at home, with friends, and with acquaintances. Foremost and extremely important, to educate and warn our children, but also to let people know that we are aware and informed about how to look out for perpetrators of this crime.

People, including family and friends use to tell me that my girls will grow up paranoid if I continue to tell and warn them about these sick people and what they do to children. I made my children promise that they at any time must tell me when they feel uncomfortable with anything an adult did or said. My promise to them was that whatever they told me, I would believe a hundred percent and protect them. My response to family and friends was that I'd rather have paranoid than abused or death children.

In the past, at least in my past, not only mine but also my friends parents would not believe us when we told them about a trespass of an adult and therefore did nothing about it. This phenomenon gave the trespasser greater power over us and left us to fend for ourselves. Of course, we lost all faith in our parents.

This was not going to happen to my children!

By talking about this subject we let children know that we are aware and that we are instantly ready to protect them from these sick individuals. Unfortunately we will not be able to protect all children everywhere (my greatest wish), but by talking about this subject and bringing it out in the open more often and by supporting and/or joining the organizations that fight against these sick people, we can make a difference.