POLICE, charities, council staff and other youth services from across Yorkshire descended on a Bradford school today for a conference looking at child sexual exploitation.

Among the sessions held through the day was a harrowing talk from the parents of a local boy who was groomed by several men when he was 13.

The annual Yorkshire CSE conference was held at Bradford Academy, and saw guests from around the county come to learn about issues surrounding a subject that is becoming increasingly prominent as more people begin to recognise the signs of CSE.

Speakers included Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England, who held a talk on the best ways to protect young people from grooming, and independent safeguarding consultant Adele Gladman, who spoke of the recent grooming scandal in Rotherham.

There were also workshops, delivered by specialist children’s services, on issues like grooming in rural areas, CSE among refugee communities and the importance of educating children about healthy relationships.

The event was run by the Blast Project, which deals with boys in Bradford and Leeds who have been sexually exploited.

In a session on male victims, attendees were told of the case of a boy from the Bradford district who was groomed and sexually abused by a number of men over the course of two years, from 2010.

The men were later arrested and sentenced for a variety of sexual abuse charges.

An interview with the boy was played during the workshop, during which he spoke about the issues he faced after realising what he had experienced was grooming. This included the “horrible” cross examination he faced during the court cases, when he gave evidence against his abusers through video link.

He added: “After years of being told I was a victim I went to having someone shouting at me calling me a liar. It was massively detrimental. I think courts could be less aggressive to victims.”

The boy had met many of the men online, and in the interview he was asked what he would say to anyone who said he was “looking for it.”

He replied: “I was a 13-year-old child whose only relationship experience was being groomed. These men told me this was normal.”

His father addressed the workshop, pointing out that abusers can be from a variety of backgrounds. He said: “These men weren’t in gangs, only one was Asian. They ranged in age from early 20s to 50 and were businessmen, teachers, truck drivers. They all acted on their own.

“He believed what these men were telling him.”

Phil Mitchell, project co-ordinator at the Blast Project, told attendees it was important that any service that dealt with victims of grooming focused on what was best for the young person. He said this included not blaming them for their abuse.