Emmerdale’s ongoing teacher/pupil storyline helps raise awareness that boys are also victims of sexual exploitation.

Soaps are renowned for successfully tackling a wide range of issues and raising public awareness and understanding of subjects that can often be difficult to fully explain through other means. Soaps have sensitively dealt with hard-hitting subjects like mental health, domestic violence and increasingly, sexual exploitation.

The unfolding ‘Emmerdale’ plot about middle-aged teacher Maya who grooms her 15-year-old student and stepson Jacob, has shown the kind of control that female perpetrators of abuse can wield over boys too.

We are pleased that the soap is tackling the misconceptions that this form of abuse only affects girls and addressing the taboos that offenders can be women as well as men and from all walks of life. Showing Maya in a position of power and authority who abuses this when she targets and grooms Jacob also shows another side to sexual exploitation that isn’t often seen or understood. Maya does not seem like the stereotype of a perpetrator which is an important message for the public.

The storyline has brought about inappropriate comments online from people who have trivialised the storyline and still fail to understand that this is sexual exploitation – in just the same way as if a male teacher had groomed a female student. This shows that there is more to be done on tackling awareness and stigmas related to child sexual exploitation and abuse.

We hope, however, that bringing this to light will prompt more conversations about the potential dangers facing children and young people of all ages, genders, backgrounds, and cultures in our local communities.

Research by the NSPCC shows that one in 20 children experience sexual abuse – including sexual exploitation. However, as most sexual abuse is not reported or detected, it is difficult to assess the true scale of the issue. Whether it occurs online or in-person – perpetrators of grooming can be manipulative and controlling. They will exploit a young person’s vulnerability and coerce them into sexual acts and can potentially scar them emotionally and physically for the rest of their lives.

The grooming process is often complex; so much so, that many young people don’t at first realise they have been groomed and are actually are risk of serious sexual abuse. Because of this, many feel responsible for what happens to them.

Safe and Sound’s specialist support team has worked with hundreds of young people across Derbyshire to enable them to come to terms with their experiences so that they are no longer trapped or defined by them.

We are currently looking to develop innovative and effective information and education programmes to raise awareness amongst the public and professionals of the issues, the warning signs and the support available here in Derbyshire.

To find out more about what you can do to help us tackle these issues, please find out more.

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