Survivor’s powerful speech raises awareness of child exploitation

Survivor's powerful speech raises awareness of child exploitation

Leading experts in the field were at Canterbury College on Thursday 14 March to raise awareness among the 180-strong audience of professionals about the varied and complex reasons why children and young people fall victim to exploitation.

Rotherham survivor Sammy Woodhouse was among the speakers at the conference, organised jointly by the Canterbury Community Safety Partnership, Canterbury Local Children’s Partnership and Kent County Council’s Early Help and Preventative Services.

A successful author, campaigner, fundraiser and commentator, Sammy shared her harrowing personal experience of mental, physical and sexual abuse from the age of 14 and provided a unique insight into how victims are manipulated and the devastating impact on them.

She was followed by Jessica Eaton, the founder and owner of Victim Focus and renowned expert in the field of sexual violence and mental health. She challenged the culture of blaming the victims of child sexual exploitation rather than the perpetrators.

Children’s Society also presented a hard-hitting video, County Lines, written and directed by Henry Blake, and Kent Police and the county council shared their latest working practices aimed at tackling the issues.

Suzi Wakeham, Canterbury City Council’s Director of Community Services and Chair of the Canterbury Community Safety Partnership, said: “Child exploitation is not restricted by geography, social class or any other defined community. It can happen anywhere.

“It’s widely recognised that safeguarding children is everyone’s responsibility and events like this are hugely important in challenging our approaches to make sure we can provide the very best services and care for the children in our district.

“We were delighted that so many local practitioners took part in the day and that Kent County Council was able to attract such brilliant speakers whose passion, direct experience and depth of knowledge was truly inspiring.”

Rob Jobe, Kent County Council’s Early Help District Manager, said: “The event helped professionals from a range of key agencies to consider the wide range of criminal and sexual exploitations of children and young people and provided an opportunity to explore how we can work together to address these.”

Sally Ward, Chair of the Canterbury Local Children’s Partnership Group, said: ​​“The awareness-raising event was a truly inspirational day. It was so encouraging to see such a wide range of professionals in one room and our speakers delivered challenge and a breadth of lived experience which was truly impactful for the audience.

“I am very proud to be part of such an innovative event and look forward to more collaborative working and further actions within the Canterbury district.”

Published: 19 March 2019

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