Sexual Exploitation - It doesn't happen to boys? It does!
As the project coordinator of the BLAST Project I speak across the country at safeguarding conferences about how boys - not just girls - can be groomed and sexually exploited.
At these events I'm regularly surprised by the responses of the professionals, many of whom may have heard of boys being involved with CSE, but deny that it is any more than a small number of isolated and sporadic cases.
To support their case they generally point to the large number of services across the country supporting female victims of CSE and the relative paucity of corresponding services for boys.
Only after I point out that these services are usually formed purely to support girls (and are marketed as such), do they start to see the problem. The focus on girls alienates most boys from ever even considering contacting the professionals that work at these services.
This bias is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy, with professionals across the country reporting a lack of demand for help from boys even though their services are aimed squarely at girls and interpreting this as a lack of overall demand.
In many areas there has been little or no consideration of how we can encourage boys and young men to engage with services and ultimately disclose exploitation. To help get the message across that boys and young men are victims of grooming and sexual exploitation too, we have produced two films that highlight the issues faced by sexually exploited boys and young men.
'My New Friend' highlights the differences in how we perceive and respond to indicators of risk when they are being presented by a boy rather than a girl.
The second 'Same Risk, Different Gender' is a 30 minute film aimed at encouraging professionals to make their practice inclusive of and accessible to boys and young men.