It has been a theme of this web site that Safeguarding is insincere. Its primary purpose is to protect officials from liabilities that arise from being linked to child abuse. Underlying attitudes towards young people, put simply, a tendency to turn young people into objects, have not changed at all.
A real change in attitudes would mean a change towards valuing young people as subjects. This hasn’t happened yet.
The world of schooling is filled with examples of abuse of young people – or at least extreme objectification – which pass unnoticed. The same schools where these abuses happen no doubt hold many ‘Safeguarding’ training courses and events and believe they are havens of… something. This is an example – a school makes young people wear ‘lanyards’ around their necks if their uniform is out of shape. This is an example of isolation, internal exile, par excellance. From the school’s point of view it is a development of the (horrible) practice of internal isolation – when a student is sent to study at a desk alone in a corridor or room. In this example the student continues to mingle with their peers but are marked out by the sign they are forced to wear. Shaming and humiliation are the emotional effects. But really this is about an extreme ‘docilisation’ in Foucault’s sense – a training of the subjects.
However; the main theme of this post concerns an even more disturbing trend. It is now considered normal to discuss child sexual abuse even with quite young young people – primary school age. These discussions are not proposed as something delicate and serious a parent might have with their child – to warn them about possible dangers, but in a way that doesn’t alarm them. These discussions are proposed as explicit and routine and delivered by ‘professionals’. All this amounts to the sexualisation of young people. We have commented before – there are two groups of people who see school-aged children as sexual objects; paedophiles and Safeguarding advocates. Like any other disciplinary system the first move of Safeguarding is to normalise the behaviour it claims to be opposed to. It does this so it can manage it. In reality this probably increases the behaviours.
The following takes this to a new level. This is an advert for someone to manage a team of ‘youth ambassadors’ – themselves young people – who will talk to other young people about child sexual abuse:
This is an exciting new opportunity at Step Out, we are seeking to recruit an innovative and passionate practitioner to develop our Youth Ambassadors Programme. Youth Ambassadors are young leaders and your role will be to support them to deliver early intervention and preventative work within primary education settings to other young people, focusing on raising awareness around CSE prevention and protective behaviours. [from a youth project job advert in Oxford]
This is the exact analogy of how paedophiles sometimes like to use an already groomed and compliant young person to help them groom and manipulate even younger victims.
This is in effect the mirror image of paedophilia. It passes as normal.