With Thursday, 18th March marking National Child Exploitation Awareness Day, one of the country’s leading providers of transformational solutions to the health, education and social care sectors has called for more to be done to tackle the issue throughout the year.
Ahead of the awareness day, Alison Alexander, Strategic Director at Antser – a pioneer of the world’s first virtual reality enabled behaviour change programme across the children’s sector – has said the world “should continue to be shocked” but worries with the many issues affecting children, we might have lost the necessary focus on child sexual exploitation.
Organised by NWG Network, National Child Exploitation Awareness Day aims to highlight the issues surrounding child exploitation, “encouraging everyone to think, spot and speak out against abuse and adopt a zero tolerance to adults developing inappropriate relationships with children or children exploiting and abusing their peers.”
Alison said: “We continue to be appalled that parts of society seek out children or young adults in this way. People are happy to believe it’s only the most extreme cases; no parent thinks it will happen to their child, but it’s growing.
“There needs to be much more awareness of it. Everyday should be dedicated to raising awareness of child exploitation. Everyone should be doing everything they can to stop it because there’s no way that anyone accepts it.
A 2017 report by the LCPF Co-Commissioning Workshop, used MPS Data (Nov 2014 – Nov 2015) to highlight that victims of child sexual exploitation were predominantly young women, and the average age of victims was 14.6 years old. Young people who had gone missing also accounted for 35 percent of victims.
In contrast, the MPS Data found the average age of offenders was 24 years although gang offenders were substantially younger at an average age of 17 years old.
The Government recently published its ‘Tackling Child Sexual Abuse Strategy 2021’, which lays out its plans to tackle child sexual abuse, which includes child sexual exploitation.
Alison added: “As we come off the back of a week which celebrated both International Women’s Day (IWD) and Mothering Sunday, it’s important to note that the biggest group of victims of child sexual exploitation are girls.”
“It’s easy for people to say ‘why didn’t they just leave?’ but victims often feel powerless to do so or sometimes they just can’t get out. So much needs to be done to disrupt the abusers and shock children into understanding the risks. We need to therefore be doing everything we can to help children who are at risk to manage it and support them to get out of it.”
Antser has developed hard-hitting films depicting the realities of child sexual exploitation as part of its VR-enabled training programmes for those working within children’s services, including education, health, local authorities and the police, in a bid to deliver positive change and improved outcomes for vulnerable children, adults, families and communities.