Our SOS+ team work in schools to help prevent young people getting involved in gangs, crime and serious youth violence. CJ from the team explains an end of term SOS+ session to address worries around exploitation and gang involvement amongst the Year 10s.
We were called in to a large Academy in Surrey. When I initially approached the school, they expressed concerns of child sexual exploitation (‘CSE’), gang exploitation/involvement, drug use/dealing, violence and peer pressure amongst their young people. They were interested in having a motivational session for a group of Year 10s in order to prepare them for their upcoming GCSE exams as some of the students were suffering from low self-confidence, low self-esteem, and concentration and behavioural problems
The school wanted a sexual exploitation session to be delivered before the term ended as they had a number of young female students at the Academy who they felt were at risk, and wanted this to be addressed before the school holidays. We delivered an SOS+ Child Sexual Exploitation session to 45 young girls, in years 9 and 10. The session defined child sexual exploitation; explaining the forms of sexual, emotional and psychological abuse backed up with real-life example. We exposed the different grooming methods employed by gangs and perpetrators, looked at what a healthy relationship should look like, highlighted coping strategies and ways to get help and avoid risky situations.
The session lasted an hour and a half, and the young women were not shy about expressing their views. I was surprised at the amount of experiences of sexting, bullying, and peer pressure that came out during the session. There were several serious disclosures around sensitive videos with explicit content being shared (without consent) throughout the school, which caused the victims to feel extremely ashamed, and violated. The Principle and Special Education Needs Coordinator were in the session, and afterwards were able to deal with the disclosures appropriately. The young women left the session more empowered and with tools that allowed them to say no and deal with intimidating, and exploitative situations. The professionals in the room were extremely pleased with the session and the information it revealed about the risk-taking going on in the room, and have asked SOS+ to return to speak to all year groups.