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Brighton and Hove victims of teen sex abuse speak out
5:20pm Monday 14th May 2012 in News
The harrowing accounts of sexually exploited teenagers have been revealed after a charity was set up to help victims.
The WiSE project has been running since June 2011 to help young people in Brighton and Hove who have experienced or are at risk of sexual exploitation.
One victim was 17-year-old who did not realise they were being exploited as they thought it was a loving relationship.
The victim said: “I honestly didn’t think there was anything unhealthy about my relationship. I didn’t realise I was being used at all.
“It was made to seem normal and when I worked with YMCA WiSE it was hard at first to come to terms with the fact it wasn’t a very healthy relationship. I was so in love I didn’t care about the bad things happening.”
The project, run by Sussex Central YMCA, works with young men and women aged 13 to 25 around healthy and unhealthy relationships, consent, risky behaviour, assertiveness and resilience, to equip them with the skills they need to overcome their vulnerabilities and exploitation.
They have found adults bribe young people for sex using an offer of a place to stay, buying them food or giving them money.
Gemma Doughty, YMCA WiSE project coordinator, said: “Perpetrators exploit any child over which they can exert power. Young people are vulnerable for so many reasons.
“Young women, for example, are often targeted for grooming simply because they can have a need to be loved and to be given attention.
“We know vulnerable young people in Brighton and Hove are being groomed in takeaways, fast food restaurants and shopping centres.
“Typically, ‘friendships’ are formed and phone numbers or social media details are exchanged, leading on to further grooming, invites to parties and exploitation. The grooming process can take place within one day or over a long period of time.”
So far 294 professionals who are working with vulnerable young people and children have received training from the YMCA WiSE project team. The project also operates a sexual exploitation telephone helpline.