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Normalisation of underage sex putting young people at risk

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The normalisation of underage sex is putting young people at risk of sexual exploitation, a national charity has said.

A new report released by The Family Education Trust highlights findings of serious case reviews of sexual exploitation, concluding that a culture which normalises underage sex is to blame.

The report, called 'Unprotected', raises serious questions about government plans to make relationships and sex education mandatory in all secondary schools, and relationships education mandatory in all primary schools.

Common themes of normalisation

The report examined serious case reviews of child sexual exploitation in several parts of England, including Rochdale and Oxfordshire, alongside Professor Alexis Jay's Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Exploitation in Rotherham.

It found common themes in these serious case reviews, including the presumption that sex between children of a similar age is consensual and will not involve exploitation.

The report also found a failure on the part of professionals to question underage sex. In many cases professionals simply offered contraception without telling the child's parents.

A tendency to dismiss parental concerns was another key trend.

'Fundamental flaws in professional attitudes'

Norman Wells, Director of the Family Education Trust and author of the report, commented:

"The evidence from recent serious case reviews clearly demonstrates that fundamental flaws in professional attitudes towards underage sexual activity have directly contributed to exploitation and abuse."

He continued: "Relaxed attitudes towards underage sex has led to what can only be described as a paralysis in child protection agencies as far apart as Rochdale in the north, Torbay in the south, Thurrock in the east and Liverpool in the west.

"Even though the normalisation of underage sex has been identified repeatedly in the serious case reviews as a reason for the complacency of child protection agencies, there is no indication of a willingness to address these underlying issues either at the local or the national level."

'Relativistic approach part of problem'

He went on to raise concerns about the government's plans to introduce mandatory sex education, particularly the absence of clear moral guidance.

"The evidence from the serious case reviews suggests that the relativistic approach advocated by the leading campaigners for statutory sex education is not the solution, but is rather part of the problem," he warned.

"We should be wary of any approach to sex and relationships education that is reluctant to declare anything 'wrong'. Children, young people and professionals alike all need a clear moral compass in order to safely negotiate the confused and confusing landscape that lies before them."

You can purchase a copy of Unprotected here for £7.50.

Related links: 
The normalisation of underage sex is leaving children unprotected, says national family charity (Family Education Trust) 
'Unprotected report' (Family Education Trust) 
Sex education could become compulsory in all schools 


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