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Young people share experience of being sexually exploited to help others

Free from Fear

#FreeFromFear

Young people who bravely shared their experiences of child sexual exploitation (CSE), have created three short performances to raise awareness of the crime, with the aim of preventing the same thing happening to other young people.

Supported by Barnardo’s, and in partnership with Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens, the films entitled ‘Free from Fear’ were premiered at an event held at The Watershed, Bristol, on Monday, October 30.

Over 100 people attended the event to view the screening, celebrate the work of the young people involved as well as hearing about some of the successes of the West of England service and more about the new CSE service for Avon and Somerset.

The three spoken word performances used poets to deliver the words and expression of the young people as survivors of sexual abuse, through the viewpoint of the older self, giving strength to the younger self.

You can view the performances at www.youtube.com/AvonandSomersetPCC

Ms Mountstevens said: “Child sexual exploitation is happening and together, we need to stop it before it starts.  In order to tackle CSE for good, we need long term and consistent support to help children to survive and recover from their experiences and importantly to help the police identify and aggressively go after the perpetrators of this atrocious crime.

“These films not only raise awareness of CSE but challenge all perceptions from healthy relationships to exploitation.  Awareness of CSE is increasing, with high-profile cases involving celebrities gaining media attention.  However, these cases focus on the past.  The exploitation and abuse of children is happening now and together we need to stop it today.

“The performances are incredibly inspiring and I would like to commend all those involved in their production.  I would like to particularly thank the young people for sharing their stories.  It is striking how relatable the films are, so much so I believe we can all take something away from watching them.”

On speaking to the young people involved in the project, they said: “Every month, young people across Avon and Somerset are experiencing sexual exploitation. Too often the people who are there to support us don’t always recognise the abuse that’s taking place or use language which blames us.  We want to help other young people and those around them recognise abuse earlier by designing a resource from our perspective, as those who have been through it.”

Those who attended the event included High Sheriffs, Lord Lieutenants, Wiltshire PCC Angus Macpherson, local authority representatives, Avon and Somerset Police, youth groups, schools, the wider Barnardo’s team and other young people from across the area.

PCC Angus Macpherson said: “We can never underestimate the damaging effects of child sexual exploitation.  Young people need to understand the risks of becoming a victim CSE, and recognise the signs and behaviour of those seeking to take advantage and cause harm.

 "These films produced by young people will enable others to hear first-hand the devastating impact CSE can have on young lives. It will be a key tool in supporting young people who may be a risk and assist support agencies in continuing their fight against CSE."

The evening began with a drinks reception, where guests could view artwork, poetry and photography from the creative minds of the young people, before presentations from the PCC and Barnardo’s Regional Assistant Director, Duncan Stanway.

During her presentation, as well as talking about the work of the West of England Service over the past two years, PCC Sue Mountstevens announced a new CSE service, which went live on October 1, and will be delivered by Barnardo’s and the area’s five local authorities.

Speaking about the film, Duncan Stanway said: “We are immensely proud of the young people who supported the development of ‘Free from Fear’ by bravely sharing their own experiences of child sexual exploitation.  They show how easy it can be for a vulnerable young person to be groomed and abused, and how it can affect anyone, whatever their age and background.

“Child sexual exploitation remains a hidden crime which is why it’s so important that we do everything in our power to raise awareness of the warning signs and to reassure victims that they are not to blame.  We all have a role to play in keeping children and young people safe from harm.”

What is child sexual exploitation?

Child sexual exploitation is when a child is forced or manipulated into sexual activity in return for affection, gifts, money, drugs or alcohol.  It's a type of child abuse, although children do not see it that way, because they are groomed by the abusers.

CSE can be carried out by individuals or by groups. It can be motivated by money or by sexual gratification. But in all cases, there is an imbalance of power - vulnerable children are controlled and abused by adults or by other children.

60% of CSE happens online. You can help protect children and young people from being groomed online and later exploited by talking openly with them about the risks of social networking, understanding privacy settings and how virtual identities are not the same as real life. This is especially important in the context of gaming.

All children and young people deserve to live free from fear and we all have a part to play in protecting young people from harm.  If you’re worried about sexual exploitation – or feel something just isn’t right – remember you are never alone.

Please talk to a trusted friend or adult, the Barnardo’s Bristol BASE team on 0117 9349726 or call the Police on 999 if there’s an immediate danger.  You can also visit the Barnardo’s website www.barnardos.org.uk/basebristol.htm

Posted on Tuesday 31st October 2017
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