I’m reading about the Rochdale grooming trial as I’m editing a short film on the subject to be shown in Sheffield. Sheffield, thankfully, is tackling the issue but it amazes me that trafficking teenagers as young as 13 for sex really goes on, and that legal recognition of such crimes in this country seems late in developing.
We have been talking with boys and service providers to gauge the experience of these crimes and the risks to our young people. The feeling I get is that it’s not uncommon, but due to extreme violence and intimidation very few young people come forward. The grooming process in some cases is organised within a hierarchy where young people who have been abused are criminalised and used as a shield to protect the gang bosses. One person described an area of the city as something out of Oliver Twist with young people doing the bidding or older men. Young people are moved from city to city in order to isolate and control them.
I’m not sure of the statistics, but Yorkshire is thought to be a common destination and starting point for this kind of trafficking. One teenage victim said passionately that the prevalence of Facebook and mobile phones is probably a factor in the increase of these crimes. I’ve been working in primary schools lately helping very young children with creative projects and giving them some direction in online safety. It’s very apparent that many primary school children do have Facebook accounts. This must ring alarm bells.
Children particularly around the age of thirteen and fourteen have a strong desire to feel more grown up and to belong to a group and have little discernment when it comes to true friendship and they trust easily. The most heartbreaking thing about this is the abuse of trust and the calculated process that leads these horrible crimes.
I do feel motivated to do what I can to help. I’m sure you do.