May 23 2013 Latest news:
Sara Odeen-Isbister , Senior Reporter
Friday, May 18, 2012
In a case which hit headlines across the country, nine men from Rochdale were jailed last week after grooming girls as young as 13 for sex.
As a result of their shocking crime, a comprehensive review of child grooming was carried out in Greater Manchester and 9,000 children in Rochdale have now received lessons on the issue.
Educating youngsters will, according to a Dagenham child abuse charity, go part way towards preventing these horrific crimes.
Step Up, based in Rainham Road South, said the problem of children being groomed for sex is worryingly more common than many people think.
And more often than not, the abuser is a family member or a close family friend.
For the past three years, Step Up, which offers practical and emotional support to victims and their parents or carers, has been running two-day long grooming awareness workshops for Year 9 pupils at secondary schools in Redbridge. It hopes the scheme will soon be extended to Barking and Dagenham.
Step Up’s independent sexual violence advisor Ann Marie Shinkwin explained how the workshops work: “We show the pupils a DVD that has been produced by Step Up children who have been abused. In the film the children show who can be abused, how someone can be groomed and how they become survivors.
“The students are then made aware of the percentages around child sexual abuse, for example that 80 per cent of children know their abuser and that one-in -four girls and one-in-nine boys will be abused before they are 16.”
The workshop leader will also explain that it is OK if a family member or friend is giving them a present or taking them to nice places but that they need to be concerned if they are doing so and then asking the youngster not to tell anyone.
The response from pupils, who are aged around 14, has been very positive so far,” said Ann Marie. “When they first come into the classroom, they can be a little bit uncomfortable but by the second day they’re asking lots of questions and showing a lot of interest. By the end of the week you can tell they are a lot more aware.”
Since the workshop scheme was launched a number of children have opened up to the Step Up staff about abuse in their home.
“We let them know we’re around at break times and after school if they want to talk to us and a few have made disclosures,” explained Ann Marie.
“When this happens we offer them the chance to receive support from the charity which some have taken up.”
The charity, which always meets the pupils’ parents before the workshop, is trying hard to get the scheme launched in Barking and Dagenham.
Ann Marie said: “We’ve contacted the schools many times but haven’t had much response yet. But we’ll keep trying.”
Call Step Up: 0208 517 5888
What should parents look out for?
Is your child receiving gifts from strangers, family members or friends who have not asked or told them they would be giving their child a present?
Children often show rather than tell others when something is upsetting them. Worrying signs to look out for include acting out in an inappropriate sexual way with toys or other children, nightmares, sleeping problems, being withdrawn or very clingy and regressing to younger behaviours, self-harm in older children and coming up with new words for body parts.
Physical warning signs include, pain while they are weeing or during bowel movements and wetting or soiling accidents (by those who have been toilet trained).
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