Today (September 5th2019) is the International Day of Charity which puts the spotlight on the vital role that charities play in communities across the world.
The date was chosen by the United Nations General Assembly – in part to commemorate the anniversary of the passing away of Mother Teresa of Calcutta who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979 ‘for work undertaken in the struggle to overcome poverty and distress, which also constitute a threat to peace’.
Mother Teresa’s work on the streets of India had a strong focus on rescuing children and young people from sexual exploitation which gives International Day of Charity even greater resonance our local charity Safe and Sound.
Alarmingly, Child Exploitation (CSE) is just as prevalent in the UK and in our local communities here in Derbyshire as it is in poorer countries across the world.
In the UK today, one in twenty children are affected by child sexual abuse including exploitation. That means that in every classroom in Derbyshire, there is at least one vulnerable young person in need of help.
That is why the work of Safe and Sound is so important.
Established in 2002, we are the only local charity dedicated to supporting and transforming the lives of children and young people across Derbyshire who are victims of or at risk of CSE.
Our specialist team guide them towards the self-belief and courage they need to become stronger and no longer defined by the abuse of others.
In the past year when we have supported more than 100 local children and young people from communities across Derbyshire. These have ranged from helping those at danger of online grooming to specialist support for victims of CSE to re-build their lives.
CSE is still regarded as a taboo and difficult subject. It takes many different forms from rape and sexual assault to online grooming and encouraging children to share inappropriate images of themselves.
The key factor is that individuals or groups take advantage of young people by manipulating or deceiving them into sexual activity in exchange for something the victim needs or wants. This could range from money and alcohol to less tangible things such as the attention that they crave at a vulnerable time in their lives.
Awareness and understanding is therefore vital and, the past year, we have also reached out to nearly 2,000 local people and fellow professionals alike to raise awareness of CSE, thanks to the support of BBC Children in Need.
Young people at schools workshops overwhelmingly tell is that they have learnt something new about grooming, online dangers, consent and healthy relationships which is so important to keep them safe in this day and age.
In addition, we special projects have included:
– The involvement of our young people in the Sound Sense music project, funded by the Office of Police and Crime Commissioner as a creative outlet for victims of CSE
– Developing a specific awareness and support programme for young people and their families who are part of the new and emerging communities in the city
– Developing two specialist assessment tools to better identify those at risk of CSE and to measure the effectiveness of support work
To expand our work across the county and reach more young people in new and innovative ways, we launched our Butterfly Appeal earlier this year.
Exciting new fundraising activities will be announced soon to build on the packed programme in the past year which has raised much-needed funds for us to support young people. Fundraisers have entered the Derby Half Marathon, joined sponsored walks and bike rides, attended quiz nights and even taken to the ring at a white-collar charity boxing event.
With the further support and generosity of businesses, funders and individuals for the Butterfly Appeal, we plan to develop new support programmes including:
- A new outreach programme to provide hands-on support where young people are at their most vulnerable
- Wider support for the families of victims and those at risk of CSE
- Youth work programmes with new activities from music to sport to build young people’s confidence and resilience
- Specialist psychological therapy programmes to tackle trauma, anxiety and depression
- Longer term support for survivors moving into adulthood enabling them to mentor younger victims
- An expanded community education programme to increase public awareness of CSE and the dangers facing young people
Therefore – as we celebrate International Day of Charity – the last words should quite rightly come from our young people and here is what they have to say.
‘You were kind and nice, you helped me to keep safe. I learnt how to keep safe on the internet and don’t drink and do drugs.’
‘I think that Safe and Sound has lifted me up and I feel like a better person, I really appreciate that Safe and Sound have helped me a lot I feel like I have learned a lot so far.’
‘I have been listened to and taken seriously’
‘Staff have been reliable and there when I needed them’
‘I have not felt judged’
Building Stronger Wings
By Tracy Harrison, chief executive of specialist local charity Safe and Sound
Child sexual exploitation (known as CSE) is an issue which has a devastating effect on the lives of the individual young person as well as on their entire families.
Imagine how you would feel if you found out that your son, daughter or grandchild has been groomed, manipulated and then coerced into sexual activity?
Parents and families of the young people that we work with across Derbyshire constantly confide about their deep-seated feelings of guilt and helplessness.
They question why had they not spotted the warning signs and what could they have done to prevent the horrendous crime committed by these evil perpetrators?
Of course, what has happened to their children is not their fault or the fault of the young people.
The blame squarely lies with the perpetrators but the effects of their criminal behaviour deeply affect so many people.
There are however key behaviours that parents and indeed the wider community should be alert to and maybe the warning signs that a young person is being groomed or sexually exploited:
- Frequently going missing from home or school
- Going out late at night and not returning until morning
- Being picked up in cars by unknown adults
- Having a significantly older boyfriend, girlfriend or friend
- Unexplained money, possessions, mobile phone credit or a new mobile phone
- Changes in behaviour, for example becoming secretive or aggressive
- Increased use of mobile phone and/or internet activity
- Involvement in criminal activity
- Regularly going out and drinking alcohol and/or taking drugs
For many years, Safe and Sound has supported young people who are victims of or at risk of CSE but we recognise that more needs to be done to provide specialist help to their families as well.
As well as new programmes to provide even stronger support for children and young people, we need to raise the funds that will enable us to provide the 121 support for the wider family – whether that is for parents, grandparents or siblings.
That is why Safe and Sound has launched the Butterfly Appeal #BuildingStrongerWings which is a year-long programme of activity to raise funds and increase awareness of CSE.
The Butterfly Appeal is inspired by the bravery of the young people that we already work with who have found the strength to come out of a dark place and make changes in their lives that transform their futures.
Our plans range from recycling old mobile phones with profits donated to the appeal to organising special fund raising events from cycling to abseiling challenges.
For more information about Safe and Support can help and how to support the charity’s work in Derbyshire, please visit www.safeandsoundgroup.org and follow on Facebook and Twitter @safeandsoundgroup
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.
How you can help