This week I have been reading feedback from young people who have been attending Brathay’s sessions in Sheffield.
The participants were teenagers who had been identified by professionals as being at risk of child sexual exploitation. They covered topics such as body image, sexual health, online safety, grooming, and sexual harassment. One of the things they said is how much they liked that it was honest and hard hitting – that the message was not scaled back.
And many of them have said they are going to do something different as a result of the programme – reduce the number of friends on Facebook, challenge harassment, or at least not accept it. ‘It made me realise that some things I thought was ok isn't and made me take a step back and rethink things’.
One girl realised from the training that she had been abused in the past. Despite challenging circumstances (teenage mums, migrants, excluded from mainstream education) these are not victims by nature, but intelligent, articulate, savvy young people. Once they understand the dangers they face, they know how to keep themselves safe. Of course, as professionals, we need to confront abuse, challenge harassment and give young people a voice. When we do that, these young people can look after themselves.