Nicola Roberts raises awareness on child sexual exploitation

Nicola Roberts speaks out for abused children this CSE Awareness Day.

In the wake of this week’s news about widespread child sexual exploitation in Telford, Barnardo’s ambassador Nicola Roberts has spoken out for CSE Awareness Day. 

Today (March 18th), people across the UK are uniting in the fight against child sexual exploitation. Nicola – formerly of pop group Girls Aloud – said:

“No matter how many times I hear about child sexual exploitation it always shocks and saddens me. Take the story of Maisie a young girl targeted online by an older man. He groomed her, gained her trust and raped her. Hearing stories like this shows us why supporting Barnardo’s is so important. Every year they help thousands of vulnerable children like Maisie escape abuse and rebuild their lives.”

Maisie, a girl with learning difficulties who finds it hard to understand risk, was chatting online with three men for around three months before she met her 32-year-old abuser in person and was raped.

Barnardo’s has specialist services across the UK that support children and young people who have been sexually exploited like Maisie. Those services reported a 38% rise in referrals last year and research by the charity shows many children who are groomed online are later sexually abused or exploited in the real world.

Barnardo’s Chief Executive Javed Khan said:

“The scale of the abuse in Telford is deeply shocking, and sadly brings into light once again the risks children face across the UK. Child sexual exploitation is unacceptable and we can work together to prevent and protect children from this hideous crime. Our work with young victims of sexual abuse and exploitation is constantly growing. Along with our efforts to empower children by making them safe from this awful abuse, we are raising awareness across the wider community and schools, equipping them to act where they identify sexual exploitation. We know first-hand how much children need our specialist support to help rebuild their lives so they can positively move forward to the future.”

Nicola has previously spoken out on behalf of Barnardo’s about the need for children to be educated about the dangers of sexting and sharing naked images. Barnardo’s recently submitted the views of young people to a government consultation about what they think should be included in the new relationships and sex education (RSE) curriculum when lessons become compulsory in September next year.

Young people have told Barnardo’s that they want to be taught a range of topics and say there is a lack of information about relationships and gender identities, abuse and assault, contraception and sexual health, and rape and consent. They also said they would like young people’s use of technology to be included in lessons. One Barnado’s service user said:

“I was never given the opportunity to understand what abusive relationships could do to a young person like me. When I was in school I was never taught about the warning signs or grooming, nor was I ever taught the importance of healthy relationships. It’s only through the help and support of my Barnardo’s’ worker that I learnt the values of sex, consent within sex and healthy relationships.”

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