Why Sexual Exploitation?
As you read in the last blog, Choices Aberdeen has introduced a new 3-session workshop programme on Sexual Exploitation. This has come about after we were repeatedly confronted with the harsh reality of the situation for the young people we work with. Scotland’s Minister for Children and Young People, Aileen Campbell, has challenged:
“Sexual exploitation of children is a reality here in Scotland. Anyone who thinks our nation is immune from this appalling crime is simply wrong. It is a problem we face and it is a problem we must face up to.”
We are grateful to Comic Relief who have funded our project to work with young people in Aberdeen around this issue.
Having only started on the team as a Youth Worker at the beginning of July, I was apprehensive about delivering these workshops because of their importance in assisting young people to identify, avoid and navigate exploitive relationships.
It has been interesting to note that, in the classes, lots of the young people were hesitant in giving a description of sexual exploitation. Many using words such as ‘rape’, ‘perverts’ and ‘grooming’ but have been uncertain, and therefore potentially naïve, about the full extent of the meaning. This has made us more aware of the necessity for these workshops. Our workshops have been developed to include a variety of learning styles and to reflect the experiences and outcomes of the Curriculum for Excellence and Sexual Health and Blood Borne Virus Framework.
In the first session we look at a number of questions to challenge our perceptions of the limits of exploitation. Firstly, we identify positive and negative relationships we then encourage the participants to think about risk and whether some activities are riskier than others. This allows young people to assess the risk factors and gives them skills when they face a situation which may be exploitive.
EastEnders is great!
The second session is based around clips from EastEnders. We use a relevant plot from the soap opera as a springboard for discussion as we look at the different behaviour patterns by the characters. It is amazing that EastEnders covered a relevant topic such as this and it is great to be able to use it in the classroom where the young people are instantly engaged and able to relate to the characters.
Tangible tactics: Being Assertive
The third session is focussed on assertiveness, as it aims to equip the young people with concrete methods for avoiding exploitation. The activities look at the benefits of avoiding aggression and passivity in being able to construct assertive responses to challenging scenarios. We conclude the 3-week programme by signposting places where the young people can get support: this could be from other organisations, the guidance staff in schools and ourselves. This, we feel, is a fundamental way of finishing the sessions. As Aileen Campbell emphasises, this problem is very real and could be the situation for people in our classes, so it is important to inform them of secure places they can turn to for support.
A very real need
Following one of our workshops we were made aware by a teacher of some young people in the group who were placing themselves in vulnerable and high risk situations. The teacher was impressed that these participants were, ‘eating out of our hands’ and noted how they had engaged with all three sessions. This situation served to remind us of the importance of these interventions and we hope that they will not only lower worrying statistics, which can often feel distant and irrelevant, but also have a real impact on the life of every young person that we meet.