1. Perpetrators of child sexual exploitation are not stereotypical. They can be male or female; operate as individuals or in groups and come from all walks of life.
2. Child sexual exploitation has a devastating effect on young people’s lives, including self-harm. Safe and Sound’s Support worker’s work help them to recognise that what they have experienced is not their fault and arm them with the knowledge and confidence to help them be aware of the signs in the future – moving them to a place of emotional safety.
14-year-old Emily is now much more positive about life – but that has now always been the case.
Emily (not her real name) thought that the 24-year-old woman who had approached her online was her friend.
The woman made Emily feel important and grown-up – showing interest in her life and then started buying her gifts that she had wanted for ages.
When the woman suggested meeting up – Emily did not realise she was being groomed.
The situation soon took a sinister turn when a visit to the woman’s home ended in sexual assault.
Emily’s instant reaction was to cut off ties with the woman but she was blackmailed into returning to the house with threats that her family and friends would be told that she had consented to a relationship.
The sexual and emotional abuse continued for many months but Emily didn’t know who or where to turn for help – thinking that she would be blamed for what had happened. Feeling desperate and ashamed, she began to self-harm.
Matters came to a head when a teacher noticed this and approached Emily, who eventually explained what had being going on.
The road to transforming her life came when Emily started working with a specialist support worker from Safe and Sound in a safe place.
They discussed online safety, grooming, what is a healthy relationship, and issues around consent. The support worker particularly reinforced that what happened to Emily was not her fault and she should not feel ashamed for what had happened to her.
Not only is Emily now able to recognise the warning signs of grooming and sexual exploitation – she is arming her own friends with the knowledge and awareness to hopefully help them to understand grooming too and how and where to go for support.
She is now benefiting from seeing a specialist mental health counsellor (CAMHS) to help her come to terms with what has happened to her and feeling far more positive about life.