By Shaun Gibson : @ShaunyNews
Child sexual exploitation is a “real and ongoing problem” that has become “normal” in some parts of Greater Manchester, according to a new report. It suggests that youngsters are exposed to an increasing amount of explicit music and pornography which it is claimed is fuelling the problem. The independent report by Ann Coffey, Labour MP for Stockport, was commissioned by Tony Lloyd, the Greater Manchester Police and Crime Commissioner, in response to a number of high-profile child exploitation cases. Home Secretary Theresa May described its findings as “shocking”.
In 2012, nine Asian men were jailed for grooming girls with alcohol, drugs and gifts before forcing them to have sex with multiple men.
The case led to claims the authorities had ignored the problem for reasons of “political correctness”. Ms Coffey said: “My observations will make painful reading for those who hoped that Rochdale was an isolated case. This is a real and ongoing problem. “I have been concerned about the number of people who have told me that in some neighbourhoods child sexual exploitation had become the new social norm. “This social norm has perhaps been fuelled by the increased sexualisation of children and young people and an explosion of explicit music videos and the normalisation of quasi-pornographic images. “Sexting, selfies, Instagram and the like have given rise to new social norms and changed expectations of sexual entitlement, and with it a confused understanding of what constitutes consent.”
Some schoolgirls told her they were regularly approached by older men in the street and urged to get into cars on their way home from school. The problem will not be tackled unless there is a “sea change” in public attitudes away from a culture of blaming children and young people for bringing about their own sexual exploitation, the report claimed. Nicola Pomfrey first became the victim of exploitation from the age of 14. She said the man she was with controlled every aspect of her life. She told Sky News: “It felt like we were friends at first, he kept buying me food and cigarettes. Then it turned into a relationship. “But as time went on I felt like I was trapped, there was no-one I could turn to and I became isolated from friends and family.
“I was vulnerable, I needed the attention and I got it from the wrong place. “At the time I didn’t feel like telling the police, or a social worker or a teacher would do any good. I suppose I didn’t think they would believe that I was a victim.”
Home Secretary Theresa May said a public consultation would be held on whether teachers, doctors and other officials should have a duty to report any suspicions – or face the law. “This is yet another disturbing report which highlights unacceptable failings by authorities at a local level to ensure the protection of children,” said Mrs May. “The report’s findings about the scale of child sexual exploitation and attitudes towards it are particularly alarming.”
Hayley Harewood, chief executive of Oldham-based charity Keep Our Girls Safe, which helps around 200 young girls at risk of sexual exploitation, agreed with the report’s findings. “It is true that in some areas child sexual exploitation is normal. It is often the first experience many girls have in terms of a relationship,” she said. “On most occasions the girls don’t realise what’s happening to them until it is too late and they are trapped.”
The 148-page report, titled Real Voices – Child Sexual Exploitation In Greater Manchester, recommends a radical new approach to tackling the problem led by young people, which recognises that the police, justice system and children’s services alone cannot succeed in protecting children.
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