Norwich project set to tackle online sex trade
With the internet becoming the new red light district, the Norwich-based Magdalene Group has launched an innovative project to reach out and help young people at risk through online sex work.
Around 100 people packed out the Curve at The Forum in Norwich on Friday June 7
to celebrate the launch of a new project which reaches out to people who are being sexually exploited.
Reaching Out on Sexual Exploitation (ROSE
) is a new initiative which aims to reach out to young people at risk of online sexual abuse and to young girls who are entering online sex work.
The Lord Mayor, The High Sherriff and Bishop Graham were amongst people from a variety of agencies, including local MPs, police and councils who will be connected with the project.
It is 18 years since the Magdelene Group started – and Bishop Graham spoke of the pressures of the contemporary age. 18 years ago ‘online grooming’ would have been unheard of. The purpose of ROSE is to move with the times and address current issues young people are facing. Bishop Graham said, “The glory of this group is reaching out an open hand of friendship that means something in the contemporary world.”
There has been much press attention on stories of grooming young girls for sex and how young people are targeted online.
It is not always obvious that a crime has taken place and young people may not be aware what is happening. Girls may be pressured to post nude photos on social networking websites and might see this as a way of moaking money. The nature of online grooming is that this behaviour can escalate and move quickly to physical abuse.
A film was shown at the launch of ROSE telling the story of a girl who meets a man who gives her gifts and earns her trust and he later passes her over to a group of men who rape her. The scale of this kind of coercion is huge. Suzi Heybourne
, Director of the Magdalene Group said, "Exploitation is taking place in Norfolk. We are all responsible to keep our young people safe."
The Big Lottery funded project will deliver cutting edge ways for staying safe from sexual abuse online, and providing services to those most at risk of sexual exploitation such as runaways and care leavers, specifically targeting those in Norwich and Norfolk.
The ROSE Project, which stands for Reaching Out on Sexual Exploitation, will be launching a new service with an innovative digital marketing strategy that will include using social media platforms to reach out to young people at risk of online sexual abuse and to young girls who are entering online sex work. It will also make use of paid advertising on Google to appear in searches above websites offering sexually exploitative services.
The Magdalene Group has a Christian ethos and has been working in the field of prevention and supporting those people affected by sexual exploitation for over 18 years.
It will also be launching the ROSE telephone helpline and internet live chat this spring to offer listening and support to young girls and women who feel they are being sexually exploited, coerced into sex or wanting to exit sex work.
Suzi said: “young girls are entering online sex work through web-cam without realising the dangers. What may seem a relatively safe way of sex working can soon turn into prostitution as women are encouraged to meet punters face-to-face.
“The ROSE Project will provide an outreach and one-to-one service to those most ‘at risk’ of sexual exploitation, particularly care-leavers and young runaways.”