Research to help combat under-representation of BAME child sexual abuse victims

Tue 11 May, 2021
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Research from the University of Bedfordshire has helped identify how social workers and practitioners can best improve their support methods for Black, Asian and minority ethnic child sexual abuse (CSA) victims in England and Wales, following national concern of under-representation in official reporting.

Commissioned by the CSA Centre (Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse), Dr Nasreen Ali from Bedfordshire’s Institute for Health Research (IHR) conducted the research in partnership with the Race Equality Foundation – a charity promoting race equality in social support and public services.

Logo for Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual AbuseThe three month project sought to identify the existing issues and address how to significantly improve the professional practice in supporting children and young people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds – defined in this study as encompassing all ethnic groups other than White British – who are at risk of, or who have experienced, child sexual abuse (CSA).

Initial research showed that, although rates of CSA do not vary significantly by social class or ethnic groups, Black, Asian and minority ethnic children are under-represented in official reporting of service use relating to CSA cases in England and Wales. Possible reasons identified as causing this under-representation include particular difficulties faced by these children in disclosing the sexual abuse they have experienced, and social workers and agencies often resisting to acknowledge that Black, Asian and minority ethnic children can be victims of abuse.

Led by Dr Ali, the project focussed on researching how agencies in England and Wales currently support Black, Asian and minority ethnic children and young people  who are affected by CSA, the professional use of resources – particularly learning materials – by practitioners and any evidence of their efficacy, and the documented needs of Black, Asian and minority ethnic children who have been sexually abused, and how effectively their wellbeing is currently being safeguarded.

Dr Nasreen AliDr Nasreen Ali, Reader in Public Health Equality and Course Lead for the University’s MSc Public Health degree, was personally requested to take on this consultancy project, due to her extensive research expertise in health inequalities taking an intersectional theoretical approach. 

She said: “Having previously worked with the Race Equality Foundation, I was honoured to be asked to consult again on this latest project. Although our findings were taken from England and Wales, I believe social work practitioners and CSA support workers and their agencies across the UK and further afield can learn from what surfaced during this study and will benefit from our recommendations”.

Once the research phase was complete, Dr Ali analysed, reported the findings and co-authored the report with Jabeer Butt who is the Chief Executive of the Race Equality Foundation, and his colleague Melanie Philips, an independent consultant and trainer.

As well as identifying the need for an increase in support and outreach offered to Black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and for the provision of additional support for agencies and service providers, the project’s main findings were that there is immediate need for: 

  • Training programmes for professionals which should help to embed anti-racist approaches and improve understanding and priorities for children and families from different ethnic backgrounds
  • Further research into the needs of children and young people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds who experience sexual abuse 

These findings will be used by the CSA Centre to further influence practice and policy to improve the professional responses to the sexual abuse of Black, Asian and minority ethnic children and young people.

The full report is currently available to the public via the CSA Centre website, with papers expanding on specific aspects of the report due to be published later this year.

Professor Gurch Randhawa, Director of the University’s Institute for Health Research and colleague of Dr Ali, said: “The research conducted on behalf of the CSA Centre will prove vital in the improvement of national support systems for all children, but particularly those from Black, Asian and minority ethnic backgrounds. The University of Bedfordshire prides itself in the impact of its research, with this latest project by Dr Ali setting an example of how our pioneering researchers can help our diverse society on a national level.”

Research and Knowledge Exchange sits at the heart of the University of Bedfordshire’s commitment to making a significant social and economic contribution to the local and national economy. Further information about PhDs and business research opportunities can be found online: www.beds.ac.uk/research

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