From One Girl to ‘Three Girls’: The importance of Separating Agency from Blame (and Harm from Wrongfulness) in Narratives of Childhood Sexual Abuse and Exploitation

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In May 2012, nine men from Rochdale were convicted and jailed for grooming girls with alcohol, drugs and gifts before forcing them to have sex with multiple men. Following the case in Rochdale similar cases of grooming and sexual abuse/exploitation of young girls came to light in various towns and cities across the UK. In 2017, the BBC aired the drama Three Girls which featured the story of three of the victims whose abusers were ultimately jailed in May 2012, including one whose story of abuse was not listened to and whose abusers were ultimately not charged with abusing her (although they were charged with abusing other young girls). In this paper, I draw parallels between the experiences of these three girls and another victim of childhood sexual abuse (interviewed as part of an ESRC funded research project) to show how the central features of this story (childhood sexual innocence and victims’ lack of agency) are deeply problematic not only for victims and child protection services, but also for how teachers and other education professionals understand children and young people’s sexuality and CSA (a term I use to include child sexual exploitation or CSE) and ultimately how they respond to victims.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)154-166
Number of pages13
JournalPastoral Care in Education
Issue number2
Early online date30 Apr 2018
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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