This week, the BBC has been showing the drama Three Girls - a programme that told how vulnerable girls were plied with drink and sexually abused by a gang of men in Rochdale for up to four years.
In the drama we hear the phrase “there’s no such thing as a child prostitute. What there is, is a child who’s being abused”.
This is very true, and many young victims do not understand they are being groomed and exploited because of the tactics offenders used. ‘Three Girls’ showed how victims were invited to parties, given alcohol and drugs by men they believed they could trust.
In Coventry, since 2015, there has been a multi-agency child sexual exploitation team, Horizon, made up of police officers, social care staff and health staff who support young people at risk of, or experiencing, child sexual exploitation and whose job it is, with others, to disrupt the actions of perpetrators and the locations that they use to target children.
No child can consent to sexual abuse or exploitation and it is wrong to suggest that children are responsible for being abused. There are many reasons why young people may not tell anyone they are being sexually exploited. They often do not recognise themselves as victims because of the grooming and manipulation they have experienced, they are often threatened with violence or physically hurt to maintain their silence, they are worried that they won’t be believed, or don’t know how to start to talk about what is happening to them.
John Gregg, Director of Children’s Services, said: “It takes immense bravery for victims to disclose what has happened to them and the impact of such abuse is often far reaching. Responsibility for the abuse is the abuser.”
Sexual abuse and exploitation can also take place via technology in the form of images or videos. Child sexual exploitation is a hidden crime that can affect any child, any time regardless of their gender, home life, religion or ethnic background up to and beyond the age of 18. Perpetrators of this crime can also be from any ethnic group, social background and can be of a similar age or older to the victims they are abusing and operate alone or with others.
Across the city we are asking communities to learn the signs of child sexual exploitation and how to report concerns.
If you have been the victim of sexual abuse you can contact the police on 101; social care on 024 7678 8555; call CHILDLINE on 0800 1111 or CRASAC (Coventry Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre) on 024 7627 7777.