SHOCKING figures reveal one in four young people dealt with by Barnardo’s in the North East are being trafficked for sex
The sickening statistics are disclosed in a report by the UK’s largest children’s charity after taking a snapshot of children the organisation worked with during September 2012.
The number of sexually-exploited children known to Barnardo’s rose by 22% to 1,452 in the UK last year and 32% since 2009/10.
The number of young people known by Barnardo’s to be trafficked within the country rose by 84% last year, from 76 to 140 children compared to the previous year. That equates to 1 in 4 in the UK, up from 1 in 6 in 2011.
In the North East, 61 children and young people were worked with during this time, with 16 found to have been trafficked, mirroring the national picture of 1 in 4.
Now the children’s charity is calling on the Government to do more to protect young people from being internally trafficked for sex.
Barnardo’s chief executive Anne Marie Carrie said: “Nobody currently knows the full extent of these crimes because of their hidden nature, but what we do know is that every time we open a new service for victims it quickly becomes fully subscribed.
“If we are to save children from suffering for years at the hands of their abusers, more must be done by the authorities to identify victims of child sexual exploitation who are being internally trafficked and to stop this activity earlier.”
Wendy Shepherd, child sexual exploitation manager of the North East at Barnardo’s, told the Sunday Sun how children as young as nine can lay prey to the perverts who traffic youngsters for sordid sex.
She says the perpetrators target vulnerable young girls and boys who hang around shopping centres and bus stations across the region to entice them into their seedy web.
The youngsters, usually aged between 11 and 17, are befriended before being driven out of the area to a party situation where they are used for sex.
They are put in situations they cannot get out of and many carry the shame for the rest of their lives. The trafficking of sexually exploited youngsters relates specifically to those born in the UK who are taken away from their usual area and then returned after being put through their suffering.
“They may be taken from Newcastle down to Leeds. These young children may be taken believing that they are going to a party but once there, they are made to have sex, sometimes with a group of men,” said Wendy.
“They are often taken by a boyfriend who is five years or more older than them. They are befriended and taken outside the area. They prey on youngsters who are vulnerable and may be hanging about a shopping centre or bus station. They are preyed on by a man who becomes their ‘boyfriend’.
“They gain the young person’s trust and pass them onto other males at a party-like atmosphere.
“The young person often don’t know they are going to the party for sex, but by then it is too late.
“However, sexual exploitation also happens to young boys who are taken to clubs and parties. This is not acceptable and we need to read the signs.”
Barnardo’s work with the victims and try to support them through their nightmare.
Wendy added: “Often people talk about someone else who it has happened to and over time it comes out that it happened to them. We have to spot the signs of children who have been sexually exploited. Anyone who has concerns can discuss them with Barnardos, social services or the police.
“It takes time for young people to recover but a number don’t and the effects on them can be life-long.
“Sexual exploitation is not acceptable.”