An ethnographic study of a group photography and digital storytelling project for young people accessing a child sexual exploitation service
Subjectschild sexual exploitation
Subject Categories::L500 Social Work
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AbstractThis thesis is based on a case study of a group photography and digital storytelling project for young people accessing a specialist child sexual exploitation (CSE) service in the UK. The research aimed to fill current gaps in the evidence base by exploring how young people accessing specialist CSE services experienced working in a group setting and utilised arts-based methods to share their experiences. The study explored the benefits and challenges associated with such projects, and the similarities and differences between group arts-based projects and traditional forms of support, which predominantly involve one-to-one support with a key worker. In striving to understand the potential power and purpose of ‘the group’, the study was informed by theories of feminism, trauma and empowerment. The primary research method was participant observation of the group sessions and this was supplemented by interviews with those involved; young people, project facilitators and CSE support workers. A thematic analysis of the data, informed by Braun and Clarke’s (2006) methodology, was undertaken. As the first study exploring a group arts-based project with young people accessing a specialist CSE service in the UK, this research provides new insights into a number of areas. This study highlights the benefits, practical challenges and considerations required in developing group work with this population. In exploring these complexities, the findings offer a new perspective on the current dominant narrative that group work may exacerbate young people’s risk to CSE. The findings instead highlight important factors to consider in creating a safe space. This includes reflecting on: the diversity of service-users; where ‘common ground’ may be established; the criteria and selection of young people; and what, and how, information about young people is shared with project facilitators. The study illustrates how the structure of a group can enhance a sense of normality for young people. This offers a new perspective to the literature on therapeutic group work which focusses on how the group can normalise specific ‘symptoms’ of trauma rather than how it can promote a general sense of normality for young people. In this study, the structure of the project and the use of photography and digital storytelling appeared to add value in a number of ways. Arts-based methods: helped young people engage in the project; supported group members to get to know each other; allowed others to ‘see’ young people’s identities that went beyond that of victim-survivor; and provided a sense of control and achievement for young people. From the data, I argue that given how past experiences of talking about one’s experience may impact on a young person’s confidence and comfort in sharing information related to their experiences, photography and digital storytelling play an important role in supporting young people to reflect, explore and communicate their emotions and experiences in a different way. This is significant, as the majority of literature on the use of photography in research has focussed on it as a method of inquiry rather than as a supportive tool for the individuals involved. Such methods can provide a mechanism to respond to young people in a strengths-based, trauma-informed way, and add value to traditional forms of support. However, the study also identified a number of challenges and risks that are inherent in working in this way that also need to be acknowledged and considered.
CitationCody, C. (2020) 'An Ethnographic Study of a Group Photography and Digital Storytelling Project for Young People Accessing a Child Sexual Exploitation Service'. Professional Doctorate thesis. University of Bedfordshire.
PublisherUniversity of Bedfordshire
TypeThesis or dissertation
DescriptionA thesis submitted to the University of Bedfordshire, in fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Professional Doctorate thesis.
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