Norwich hands-up protest at child exploitation
It was a case of put your hands up in protest against child sexual exploitation on Norwich Market yesterday in a mass pledge event organized by the Christian-based Magdalen Group. Keith Morris reports.
The plea to support National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day on Wednesday March 18 was joined by the Lord Mayor of Norwich, Deputy PCC Jenny McKibben , Cllr Arthur, Cllr Harris, the Magdalene Group CEO Suzi Heybourne and trustees and Norwich Market stallholders.
They wrote a pledge on their hands as Norfolk's voice against child sexual exploitation at the 12 noon event at the marketplace on Gentleman’s Walk in Norwich city centre.
Magdalene Group CEO, Suzi Heybourne, said: “Our aim today is to help educate the general public about the issues surrounding child sexual exploitation in Norfolk. Last year at the Rose Project we worked with 60 victims of sexual exploitation so it is very much an issue here in Norfolk, as elsewhere in the country, which is why getting the message out is so important.
“Every young person is at risk, especially those who run away from home or care, those leaving care and young people who are online with the dangers of online grooming. Our aim is to make people aware of just how many forms of sexual exploitation there are.
“As part of our work via the Rose Project, we have particular interventions like befriending young people who have experienced exploitation, giving them the tools to recognise what is not healthy, giving them the self-esteem to say no to things that they are not comfortable with and providing support work to help them stay safe in the future.”
Norfolk Police have seen referrals for child sexual exploitation more than treble in the past year up from 40 in 2013 to 145 in 2014.
Norfolk chief constable, Simon Bailey, said: "I think everybody has a responsibility. I would like to say the the Police can tackle this by ourselves, but quite frankly we cannot do that. Everybody in our society has a responsibility because we are talking about children here."
Throughout the day the Rose Project had a presence with a stall on Haymarket, giving out information and talking to the general public.
The Magdalen Group’s Rose Project aims to highlight the issues of child sexual exploitation and to ensure everyone has zero tolerance of adults developing inappropriate relationships with children. A dedicated team offers expertise and frontline services to ‘at risk’ young people and support for victims. Services include runaway support, befriending, targeted support and a free Helpline and Live Chat facility.
Click here to listen to a Mustard TV report on the problem in Norfolk
Pictured top is Suzi Heybourne, front left, with supporters and market stall holders at the hands up pledge in Norwich city centre.