CSE is not self-harm
During a meeting where were discussing the definition of self-harm (I work in Mental health) someone who works with young people said that 'you could say that CSE is a form of self-harm'. This is my response to that.
No CSE is not self-harm. Saying CSE is a form of self-harm is dangerous, it places the responsibility and the blame on the victims. It completely ignores the perpetrator, the person who has chosen to exploit and inflict harm on the victim. It ignores all we know about grooming. It suggests that the victim gets something from being victimised, which is not the reality of sexual abuse, exploitation and violence.
Would you describe domestic abuse and violence as a form of self harm? Would you say that the victim is harming herself when her resources, sense of self and hope have been so eroded that she feels she deserves the violence that the perpetrator inflicts on her? Surely we have moved on from this? Surely we can see the role if the perpetrator in this?
When I challenged the comment I was told the The Children's Society describe CSE as a form of self-harm. I was shocked, I hoped the person was mistaken but when I looked it up I found that the Children's Society have indeed done this in their report 'old enough to know better'. I would really appreciate people contacting the Children's Society and explaining to them why this is not ok and the consequences of them saying that CSE is a form of self-harm. Thank you
UPDATE: Since publishing this piece, the author has heard back from the professional who used the term 'self-harm'. They will no longer be using the term. These small forms of activism around language do have a positive impact.