A group of young people, who all know individuals affected by child sexual exploitation, are lifting the lid on the issue by showing that grooming doesn’t only happen online.
Katie Vacher, 16, and her team are alerting people to the different forms of abuse, some of which may not be immediately obvious such as in a relationship or being targeted by organised criminal networks.
The group from South Shields have made a film with Fixers to warn others of the signs to look for and urge more victims to speak out.
‘It’s a topic that’s very close to our hearts because we know people who’ve been through it,’ she says.
‘It’s shocking to think this even happens, but it’s important to know that it exists in many forms.
‘Many people think these individuals operate online, which is true, but it can happen anywhere. Everyone needs to be more aware.’
The film uses dramatised stories to show the different environments in which child sexual exploitation can happen.
The two scenarios, which are based on real experiences, include a young girl being sexually exploited at a party and the other depicts a victim being trafficked in a relationship.
They plan to share it with students and teachers during an assembly at their school.
‘We think the film is really powerful,’ she adds.
‘Our aim is to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation so more people know what it is.
‘Hopefully our work can encourage more victims to not be afraid of speaking out. Someone will listen.’
This project has been supported by NHS England North (CSE).