‘Unpacking’ the Principle and why it matters

An effective response to child exploitation and extra-familial harm requires a collective understanding of how trauma impacts on development and behaviour, and how individuals perceive and respond to threats and support. This means recognising the wide-ranging impacts of trauma and attending to non-verbal means of communicating an experience of trauma.

It also means recognising how a professional’s and organisation’s decisions, language, processes and interventions can compound traumatic experiences and impact on a child or young person’s engagement and ability to develop trusting relationships. Enabling children and young people to exercise voice, choice and control – all of which are undermined by trauma – is important, as is a recognition that ‘non-engagement’ or ‘negative’ coping strategies may be a direct or indirect result of trauma.

Responses to child exploitation and extra-familial harm need to consider trauma on three different levels:

  • The direct trauma children and young people – and potentially their parents / carers, wider family and social networks – have experienced, both from the harms and (potentially) from the professional response to those harms.
  • Trauma that can impact individuals and wider communities, stemming from shared experiences such as serious violence.
  • The vicarious, or secondary, trauma that can impact those working to support and protect traumatised individuals, often in distressing circumstances.

People understand how I have been affected by what has happened to me and they show that in the way they help me. I feel like I matter.

How it should feel for a child / young person being supported