Strengthening participatory practice with children and young people affected by sexual violence

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18th November - European Day on the Protection of Children against Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse

Posted: Thu Nov, 2016

Author: Kate D'Arcy

This blog post was originally published on the University of Bedfordshire’s International Centre Blog.

Researchers in the International Centre are working on European projects which seek to prevent and support children and young people who experience, sexual exploitation and abuse. Kate D'Arcy draws attention to the LEAP project which is celebrating the end of its first year on the European Day for the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse.

2015 saw the launch of the European Day for the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse. Today individuals and organisations across Europe are coming together again to draw attention to the fact that sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children are still a tragic reality for all our societies. They are a serious violation of children’s rights, and have long lasting and often detrimental consequences for their entire life.

The European Day has three core aims.

  • Raise public awareness of sexual exploitation and sexual abuse of children, and the need to prevent such acts
  • Facilitate open discussion on the protection of children against sexual exploitation and sexual abuse and help prevent and eliminate the stigmatisation of victims
  • Promote the ratification and implementation of the Lanzarote Convention – a unique legally-binding instrument that obliges European states to criminalise all forms of sexual abuse of children and spells out the ways to fight it.

‘The LEAP project : Life skills, leadership, limitless potential’ was launched on the 18th of November one year ago with the aim of supporting children and young people affected by sexual violence in Europe by strengthening and facilitating participatory practice.

A year has passed, and today we are launching the ‘Our Voices’ website which will feature webinars, resources and publications from all of the International Centre’s participatory projects and activities, including LEAP. Today is a great  opportunity to reflect on what we have achieved in the last year and the part we are playing in European-wide efforts to raise awareness, facilitate discussion and eliminate stigmatisation.


Here are some of our key achievements in year 1

An evidence-based four day training programme has been designed, piloted and reviewed by our four country partners in Bulgaria, The Netherlands, Romania and the UK. It aims to address sexual violence (SV) with specialist support services and promote participatory practice with children and young people (CYP) affected by SV. It has been delivered to specialist child sexual exploitation (CSE) support services and a wider body of practitioners including those in social care, play therapy, education, counselling and psychiatry. The four day programme has been delivered to around 20 practitioners in each of our four partner countries.

Following this training, Communities of Practice (CoPs), have been set up in each country, made up of those practitioners who attended the training. CoPs come together to share how they are using participatory approaches with children and young people affected by sexual violence in their work. They are sharing challenges and opportunities together in a supported, safe place. The aim of the CoPs is to build capacity and professional support networks to promote participatory rights-based approaches to supporting children and young people affected by sexual violence in the four partner countries

An e-learning programme is being developed from the four day training programme. It will be online and freely available to wider groups and networks of practitioners working with children and young people affected by sexual violence across Europe and will be translated into several different languages.

A ‘life skills and leadership' toolkit for children and young people affected by sexual violence has also been developedThe toolkit includes a three day training programme for young people (Youth Facilitators) who will then go on to co-deliver a 12 session programme to other children and young people affected by sexual violence, with partner organisations. To date the training programme for young people has been delivered to four Youth Facilitators in the UK and four in Romania, with training in the Netherlands and Bulgaria still to take place. A competition has been set up to ask young people to design and contribute illustrations that can be included in the final version of the toolkit. If you are working with young people who would be interested in contributing illustrations for this project then please get in touch!

The next phase of the project will involve the Youth Facilitators delivering the 'life skills, leadership, limitless potential’ programme to groups of other children and young people who will then go on to develop awareness raising projects in their communities.

Due to the sensitive nature of this project, ethical considerations are paramount and ethical strategies and international child protection protocols have been shared, as well as examples of how to manage risk effectively. An international group of young people, experts and practitioners in the field will therefore also inform the development of a set of ethical guidance documents to disseminate.

You can follow past and future developments via Childhub, one of our project partners - and on the Our Voices Programme Website.

You can also join our knowledge network by contacting the project co-ordinator Kate D’Arcy at kate.d’arcy@beds.ac.uk.