Posted: 18 March 2016

Empowering young people to make safe informed decisions

For today’s National Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Awareness Day our services are running and taking part in events across the country. The events will engage young people and professionals, making sure they are able to recognise the signs of exploitation and abuse and know how to stop to it.

Today we are also launching on-line resources so everyone knows how to keep young people safe.

Today Sofia Ypsilantis, a practitioner in one of our CSE services, will be at two events. Here she answers our questions about her work raising awareness and working with young people at risk of sexual abuse.

What is your role?

I work at the Hand in Hand project in Keighley, my role at the project is a Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Preventative Practitioner. I support young people on a one to one basis who are at risk of, or victim to, sexual exploitation.

I hold a case load which varies in level of risk, sex, age and disability. At the project we work with both girls and boys up to the age of twenty one. We believe that  all young people regardless of age are at risk of sexual exploitation. Too often as soon as a young person turns 16 they are not recognised as victims to abuse, and do not have the same protections. This is something the charity is calling to change through our Seriously Awkward campaign. 

How do you build a relationship with the young people you support?

At the start of support with young people I like to get to know them and  give the young people the opportunity to get to know me. This helps us build a working relationship and builds rapport which is fundamental.

I explain to all young people that we are a voluntary service and we are not part of social services or the police and it is their choice if they would like to see me or not.

The most significant highlight of my role is empowering young people to make safe informed decisions.

I love that our work with the young people is not controlled by time limitations as it can often take a while for young people to gain trust in professionals and also that we are given the ability to be creative and develop our own resources.

What are you doing today for CSE Awareness Raising Day?

Throughout the year we  highlight issues of CSE by taking part in awareness raising days for young people at colleges, schools and also at professional networking events. So CSE Awareness Raising Day is very important for us.

This week I am taking part in three events across West and North Yorkshire. Yesterday I  attended a conference focusing on how agencies can support parents, carers and young people to keep safe. We had presentations and workshops from a number of high profile and leading experts in the field of vulnerability, exploitation, missing and trafficking.

Today I am taking part in two awareness raising days, one in Keighley and one in Skipton.

This is a multi-agency collaborative approach to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation. Professionals from other agencies such as the police, social care, sexual health, drugs and alcohol and education are taking part.

As well as raising awareness the aim is to offer support and guidance to the public around what help is available in Keighley and Skipton for those affected by CSE.

By Sofia Ypsilantis - Guest bloggers
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