A youth worker who’s witnessed first-hand the devastation caused to young people by abuse and exploitation has created a powerful film, warning of the dangers of online grooming by sexual predators.
Rachel Frier is from Rotherham, South Yorkshire, a city which became notorious in recent years when an organised child sexual abuse ring targeted over 1,400 local children.
‘I’ve worked with young people who suffered this abuse and the effects are devastating,’ says Rachel. ‘Once bubbly and outgoing girls are now withdrawn, with no confidence or self-esteem.’
She’s also witnessed the damage caused by online grooming and exploitation.
‘Another young teenager was persuaded to share her number with someone she met online,’ says Rachel. ‘Soon she was receiving inappropriate calls from an older man, which caused great distress to her and her family. The police had to get involved.’
Now Rachel, 27, is determined to help young people stay safe online.
‘Now that the internet is so easily available on devices and smart phones, it's so much easier for perpetrators to continually abuse or take advantage of young people, and there’s a rising problem with young people and sexting, grooming and bullying.
‘Being mum myself to a seven year old boy, it’s even more important to me.’
Rachel’s goal is to ensure that children, as well as their parents and carers, know how to stay safe online – and how to get help or advice if they are targeted by an online abuser.
Her Fixers film, ‘Sarah’s online love,’ follows a fictional teenager as she is lured into sharing explicit photos of herself using her smartphone – thinking she’s enjoying an exciting internet romance with a fellow teen, Andy.
Instead, Sarah is been groomed by a sexual predator, who immediately uses the explicit images to ‘sextort’ her. This is a common form of abuse online - where young people are tricked into sending sexual images of themselves, before being blackmailed by threats to share the sexuacal images, if they don't obey demands for more sexual content or acts.
Rachel, who has recently completed a university graduate diploma in youth work, has already created an information booklet for young people, warning of the dangers of online predators.
‘From my youth work, I'm aware that young people are exposed to so much inappropriate content online - and the potential risk of getting a criminal record when involved in sexting,’ she says.
‘I have a young son myself and feel that the more information there is out there, the more aware young people in the future will be about internet safety.’
The stakes are high for Rachel, who knows her Fixers film could save more children - in Rotherham and beyond - from falling into a predator’s trap.
‘If I could prevent even one young person from experiencing abuse or exploitation, I would consider that a great achievement,’ she says.
To find other resources on this topic, and watch Fixers films, click on the image below.