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The invisible girls of exploitation

Criminal exploitation is typically seen as a male issue, but it affects all children, including young women. This misconception means girls who are forced to traffic drugs, carry weapons or commit theft will often go unnoticed. They have to fight harder to break free.

 

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Raising awareness

Sad girl staring out of bus window.

Hidden in plain sight

Sienna works with Abianda, a London-based service helping women who have escaped exploitation. She has lived experience of criminal groups.

'Young women are expected to behave a certain way, so we just disappear.'

‘Police don’t detect women. As a police officer you would not expect a young woman to be holding drugs or knives or stealing. No one pays attention.’

Criminals capitalise on the lack of awareness around girls in criminal groups and use it to their advantage. Young women can smuggle goods more easily because police are less likely to look out for them. They feel invisible.

A lack of understanding

Without recognition by police or professionals, many young women struggle to reach out and build the trust needed to break free.

I was never understood by professionals, so I’ve seen it first hand. We are not understood at all.

girl smiling in park

Lauren's Story

After years of being trapped in a cycle of exploitation and abuse, Lauren has broken free from her abusers. She now feels happy, confident and ready to help others.

Masks of affection

When a girl or young woman is targeted by criminal groups it can often involve sexual exploitation. The relationship they build feels real. This makes it difficult for them to realise they are being manipulated.

'Some women don’t see it. They get given gifts and taken out because their boyfriend or their friend has all the money. Others don’t want to believe it.'

Working in a different way

Working in a different way

Young girls need better education around the techniques used by exploiters so they can see the risks. Sienna sees this in her own experience.

‘Young women, like me, need to learn to take care of ourselves in school.  We need to know how to prevent situations before they happen.’

Schools have the opportunity to understand a young woman’s needs. Often in the case of exploitation, exclusion has a damaging part to play.

When you get kicked out of school, there is just nothing for you. There’s no alternative.

young woman on bus looking off camera

Education is key

We need to learn to recognise red flags, that look very green at the beginning We need to learn to recognise red flags, that look very green at the beginning

Education is key

Donya works with our Disrupting Exploitation service which specialises in tackling exploitation through the systems that have an impact on children’s lives. She hears from young people that schools need a holistic approach.

‘Often young people tell me that they want to be listened to and understood more, they want teachers who are diverse, understand their generation and who take mental health seriously.’

‘We try to intervene early in schools where a number of their young people are being exploited or are at risk of exploitation.’

‘We deliver training workshops with young people to help them to spot the signs.’

Breaking the cycle

No young person should suffer abuse or exploitation. Our project workers stand side-by-side with young people, helping them find safety, self-belief, and confidence, so they can break free from a cycle of abuse.

Every phone call, message of support and coffee shop meet-up will help young people deal with their trauma and see that their future is theirs to own.

girl red Christmas jumper looking at camera

Donate

Donate today to help our project workers reach a young person who is being exploited. 

Together we can help them break free from their abusers and begin to recover.