“We need to treat children as children” – project raising awareness of child sexual exploitation of boys in Hackney

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barnardos sexual exploitation

A PIONEERING project in Hackney is aiming to raise awareness of the child sexual exploitation of boys – and trying to stop abuse before it happens.

Barnado’s ‘Stop It Before It Starts’ programme has been working in the borough since April 2016, with the help of Young Hackney, Hackney Council’s service for young people, and the voluntary sector.

Related: Police engage businesses on child sexual exploitation

The understanding of how boys can be victims of sexual exploitation is still limited, Serrina Lobban, the Senior Practitioner for the programme told the Hackney Post.

“It’s always been the case in lots of different boroughs that girls are more easily identified,” she said.

“Support is out there.”

“The whole point of the project was to go into Hackney and talk about these things – where is a boy’s behaviour coming from? If this same behaviour happened with a girl, we would dig into them in a totally different way.

“We need to treat children as children.”

The service identifies and offers early intervention to boys and their families, in a bid to ensure that vulnerable males are given access to the support they need, and attention is given to the potential risk of abuse.

Having faced difficulties getting initial referrals to the programme, in part due to the limited understanding surrounding child sexual exploitation affecting boys, practitioners are now working on group sessions in alternative education centres in Hackney, as well as giving children one-on-one support.

“It’s always been the case that girls are more easily identified”

Lobban said: “People have been really open and receptive to the message. With our project, we are more than happy to give the parents support too if they need it. Somewhere like Hackney has so much support available.

“Support is out there.”

The campaign comes as national awareness of child sexual exploitation has increased, in part due to news of horrific crimes in Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxford, among others.