MP tells Norfolk Christian charity to get angry
The MP who chairs the Parliamentary Group on Prostitution encouraged The Magdalene Group to get angry as they launched a new campaign drawing attention to issues of sexual exploitation in Norfolk.
The Christian charity, The Magdalene Group, held its AGM on Friday 22nd June at St Luke’s Church, Norwich. The guest speaker Gavin Shuker (pictured left), Labour MP for Luton South and a Christian, thanked the Norfolk based charity for their work and gave a stirring speech encouraging the gathering to actively fight for a law change to criminalise the purchasing of sex.
Gavin Shuker MP, the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Prostitution and the Global Sex Trade said: “One of the biggest lies that is perpetuated, is that it [prostitution] is the oldest profession and for that reason it is always with us and there is nothing you can do. I just fundamentally don’t believe that is true.
“I think we should be angry. I think we should be angry that it’s okay to go out and exploit women in this way. And I think that we should be angry enough to force us into action, to force the people around us to take action, to say that it’s unjust.”
The speech coincided with the launch of the charity’s ROSE (Reaching Out on Sexual Exploitation) campaign which aims to develop systems and strategies, working with other agencies, to prevent and tackle the hidden sexual exploitation of women and children in Norfolk.
The Magdalene Group exists to support women working in prostitution in Norfolk and to provide support to help them exit and leave the lifestyle behind them. This year has seen the charity refurbish their Norwich drop in centre, launch a new website, successfully deliver a new training programme and support hundreds of women living difficult lives.
In her report to the AGM, Director Suzi Heybourne (pictured middle) painted a powerful picture of the importance that the charity’s work has in the chaotic lifestyles of the women they work with.
She said: “The women are incredibly vulnerable, they are incredibly wearing, they are incredibly erratic, exuberant and really frustrating. And above all else they are so incredibly loveable.
“We aim to give the women a place where they feel genuinely valued, looked after and cared about, showing love and support while also sharing in their pain and despair.
“The consistency of the Magdalene Group’s support and compassion in its 18 years is something that most of our clients will have no experience of in their lives…the sense of being part of a family. Sometimes ours is the only Christmas card or birthday card that the women will receive.”
Bishop Peter Fox, the Chair of Trustees (pictured right), explained what taking a Christian approach meant for the work of The Magdalene Group.
He said: “When we are trying to help somebody through a difficult part of their lives, when they are on the streets or they are in prison, I think a Christian organisation looks at that person and says ‘what is it that Jesus sees?’.
"We try and look a little deeper into who people are; knowing that people are precious and important in the eyes of God, that they are human beings and not statistics. I think that is one of the things about The Magdalene Group that is very precious”
As well as delivering frontline services, The Magdalene Group is developing strategies to prevent young people getting involved in exploitative relationships that can lead to women ending up in prostitution. Their Jigsaw Programme has delivered over 300 training sessions to children, young people, parents and professionals across Norfolk highlighting the risks of exploitative relationships and how to stay safe. The ROSE campaign will complement this work and seek to raise the profile of often hidden issues.
Speaking after the business of the AGM, Gavin Shuker MP encouraged the charity to go further.
He said: “My invitation, I suppose, is to get a bit more angry. Have compassion absolutely, but get a bit more angry. The way that we structure our society isn’t something that is set in stone. It is not something that has just arrived from on high. Cultural change comes from people believing that politics can make a difference.
“I want to thank you for the work that you are doing, the values that you have: the values of unconditional love, that non-judgemental approach and showing compassion to people, who in their everyday lives don’t receive it. Believing that change is possible is not only vital at the level of individual relationships; we need it throughout our society.”
Bishop Peter Fox thanked the Luton South MP responding: “We are going to try and get a lot more angry.”
To find out more about the work of The Magdalene Group go to www.magdalenegroup.org
The Magdalene Group, 61 King Street, Norwich NR1 1PH