More than 330 of Peterborough’s most vulnerable children and teenagers have been helped by an NSPCC service set up to cope with the hidden problem of child sexual exploitation in the UK, highlighted this week by a hard-hitting BBC drama.
Since 2013 the charity’s Protect and Respect service has helped young people who are being groomed and guard those at risk of being targeted, with the typical victim being a 15-year-old girl.
The charity is raising awareness about its service as the BBC drama “Three Girls”, which tells the true story of a gang of men who repeatedly groomed, raped and trafficked young girls in Rochdale between 2008 and 2012, is screened this week.
Across the UK the Protect and Respect Service has directly helped 1,866 children and young people, with 1,493 aged between 10- and 15-years-old since 2011.
The NSPCC is warning that many young people do not understand that they are being groomed and exploited because of the tactics offenders use, and the real scale of the problem remains chronically under reported. It is trying to help children spot whether they are at risk and how they can escape their situation.
NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless said: “Young people will not always recognise that they are being exploited and treated as property. As ‘Three Girls’ highlights, groomers can trick a child into believing that they have chosen to be in this situation and will use them however they like. We want every child to be able to spot exploitation for what it is and, if they find themselves in danger, know that it is categorically not their fault. Our Protect and Respect service is showing them how to spot potential abusers, find their way out of an exploitative cycle, and help them on the road to recovery.
“We are imploring any adult who suspects a child is being exploited to pick up the phone and call the NSPCC Helpline. This abuse is sadly still woefully underreported and, for us to help these children, we need people to speak up.”
Any young person can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or childline.org.uk. Any adult can contact the NSPCC Helpline 0808 500 8000 or nspcc.org.uk. Both are free, confidential, and open 24/7.