26 February 2014
Tackling exploitation of girls by gangs
XLP mentoring scheme. A young girl speaks to her mentor
The acceptance that rape and abuse is a normal part of life when girls are involved with gangs, must stop says Alliance member and urban youth charity XLP.
"Statutory services alone can never hope to solve the complex and growing issues around exploitation of girls involved with gangs," says Patrick Regan OBE, Founder and CEO of XLP.
The invisible nature of the problem and the fear of retaliation if victims report it makes this type of exploitation difficult to uncover or to take action against it. It is thought that 16,500 young people are at risk of sexual exploitation by gangs and groups.
Perpetrators are as young as 12 years old and one third of young people questioned give examples of gang rape.The statistics are shocking but XLP say that it is likely these figures only scratch the surface of the problem.
Patrick Regan continues: "XLP works at ground level with some of London's hardest to reach young people. There are big questions to tackle on this issue such as 'What are the dangers of girls becoming associated with gangs? Are we identifying and supporting vulnerable girls effectively? What do these girls need to help them escape gang culture? And who is best placed to work with and support these girls?'"
XLP and the Centre for Social Justice are hosting a conference to explore these questions and hear first-hand accounts from those directly affected, along with views from key policy makers and the voluntary sector. Specialists in working with those involved in gangs or serious group offending will be contributing.
The event is hosted by ITN newsreader Nina Hossain with keynote speaker Carlene Firmin MBE, head of the MsUnderstood partnership, and previously principal advisor to the office of the Children's Commissioner's Inquiry into child sexual exploitation in gangs.
Carlene Firmin said: "As political, media and public attention is given to the impact of street gangs and serious youth violence on women and girls grows, so does the need to find solutions to the problem, and this event is part of the process. No single agency can address this issue on their own, and it is critical that we all work together to address this as a child protection and safeguarding issue."