Young people across Lancashire warned on dangers of grooming and exploitation7 November, 2016
Dozens of young people in Lancashire took part in an event aimed at raising awareness of child sexual exploitation.
The story of a young girl raped and killed by a man 13 days after he first contacted her online was used to highlight the dangers of grooming at the conference in Blackpool on Tuesday (November 8).
Seventy Lancashire school pupils and their teachers were at the Hilton Hotel for the event, one of several taking place across the county as part of Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation week.
Kayleigh Haywood, 15, was groomed and murdered after being befriended by one of her abusers on social media. Her story was told at the conference to highlight the importance of staying safe online.
Lancashire Police and Crime Commissioner Clive Grunshaw opened the conference, which was sponsored by Nest Lancashire – his new service providing support to young crime victims.
He said: “Keeping our young people safe from harm is a key priority for everyone in Lancashire and over the last two years the young people themselves have told us that they want us to be honest and open about the dangers they face.
“There is no easy way to deal with such a difficult subject and the story of Kayleigh will serve to highlight the dangers young people face from social media users.
“The more that young people know about CSE, then the more likely they are able to protect themselves and their friends from potentially predatory behaviour. This conference was an excellent way to share this information with pupils and for them to take that knowledge back to their schools and classmates.”
Mr Grunshaw also stressed the need to provide support and help for survivors of abuse, with Nest Lancashire able to help young people who have been affected by a range of crimes, including abuse.
He added: “Grooming and exploitation survivors require specialist support and my Nest Lancashire service brings together a number of service providers to work with young people to offer support, advice and practical help.”
A number of workshops were delivered at the conference by Nest Lancashire, as well as partners from The Children’s Society, Lancashire County Council, Blackpool Council and Blackburn with Darwen Council.
Stela Stansfield, Lancashire area manager for The Children’s Society, said: “The workshops The Children’s Society’s ‘Street Safe Lancashire’ service ran with young people aimed to bust some of the myths that sometimes exist around exploitation.
“We highlighted that while no child should have to suffer the trauma of being sexually exploited any child could potentially be targeted, including vulnerable groups such as those with disabilities.”
Young people who have been affected by crime can access support over the phone, in person or through the website at www.nestlancashire.org. Anyone who has experienced sexual trauma can access specialist counselling and support to help them recover from what has happened to them.