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Turn Around team help to break a cycle of abuse
The image of a young teenager gazing at the camera, her wrists and ankles bound with ropes, is designed to bring home the harsh reality of child sexual exploitation.
Launched two years ago to promote the Cut Them Free Campaign by children’s charity Barnardo’s, aimed at educating parents, teachers and young people about the subtle signs of child exploitation, the image remains relevant as the fight to protect young people from this devastating crime continues.
Since its launch, two-thirds of the country’s local authorities have signed up to the campaign and 40 candidates have so far signed up to the charity’s recently-launched Police Commissioners Candidates Campaign, encouraging the candidates to recognise child sexual exploitation nationwide.
Bradford has demonstrated its commitment to tackling child sexual exploitation through a project pioneered in the city during the 1990s.
Called Streets And Lanes, it was believed to be the first service of its kind in the country to tackle abuse through prostitution. A change in the law which contributed to a better understanding and improved network of support led to the project’s name change.
Turn Around, as it is now known, continues help thousands of young people by supporting them through these circumstances.
Kay Kelly, children’s services manager at Turn Around who started with Streets And Lanes, says: “The service has always looked at prevention and raising awareness of risk both to children and young people, and to professionals – getting them to recognise when a young person is at risk.”
Some young people are more vulnerable than others. Being showered with gifts, love and attention is a ploy by perpetrators to gain confidence and trust.
“All children are vulnerable, even children who have a good home life. All it takes is for them to be sitting at home on a laptop and come across the wrong person,” says Kay.
Barnardo’s spokeswoman Jo Hewitt says there is “no stereotypical perpetrator”. In some instances, young men have been exploited by women, and girls have been known to introduce younger girls for grooming, often through fear.
Awareness is often the key to combating child sexual exploitation, and Bradford has a united front in combating the crime.
In March, the Turn Around team joined forces with the police team at Javelin House in Eccleshill, sharing information through daily briefings. The Turn Around team provides a haven for young people.
Feeling safe is something they appreciate most, judging by the wall hangings in the comfortable, child-friendly environment at the police station. It’s a place where young people can be at ease with professionals helping them and their families.
The growth in online social networking has given perpetrators a greater opportunity to groom young people, but professionals involved in tackling the issue hope greater awareness will lead to more perpetrators being brought to justice and will prevent more young people from becoming victims.
Prevention work involves visiting schools and working with referrals. The team may also intervene when young people have been missing from home and are at risk of sexual exploitation.
“We can quickly identify those young people who are starting to take risks or who are being groomed,” says Kay.
Building a relationship with a young person is imperative. “Often they’re at a point where they don’t trust anybody or they’re made to feel emotionally or financially dependent on their abuser,” says Kay.
Breaking the cycle of abuse can take time and Kay says the Turn Around project can work with a young person for two or three years.
“We never give up on them,” she says.
For details, call the Turn Around team on (01274) 618421.