Thames Valley Police and the Safer MK community safety partnership have been working together to bring a theatre production play to secondary school pupils in order to raise awareness around child sexual exploitation (CSE).
Performances of Alter Ego’s Chelsea’s Choice, which last 40 minutes, were held at schools in Milton Keynes this week, innovatively and powerfully highlighting the dangers of CSE.
The performances have been funded jointly by Thames Valley Police and Safer MK. As well as raising awareness in young people, they serve to bring the issue to the attention of professionals in all sorts of agencies and organisations.
CSE is currently identified as an area of focus for the Force,and continues to be a priority for Milton Keynes Safeguarding Children Board (MKSCB).
The production shows how young people, both boys and girls, are groomed by adults for the purposes of sexual exploitation using various methods, with offenders eventually taking complete control and dominating their victims’ lives. In watching the play, the audience gains a better understanding of the devastating impact that sexual exploitation has on a young person’s life.
The performances took place at Stantonbury Campus , Sir Herbert Leon school , Radcliffe School and MK Academy .
Staff from a number of partner agencies including the fire service, youth offending teams, children’s social care and Milton Keynes General Hospital,all attended the professional performance at Sir Herbert Leon School.
Children benefit from viewing the play by having:
A greater awareness of what constitutes a healthy relationship.
A greater understanding of safer internet use.
Better able to identify risky situations.
Increased awareness of the grooming process and the differing forms it can take.
Increased awareness of CSE and the differing forms that it can take.
Increased awareness of relevant local services that can provide them with help and support.
The aim of the professional session, and the anticipated outcomes, are:
The same as the all of the benefits for the children.
Increased awareness of the warning signs of CSE.
A better understanding of the complexity of CSE, while also challenging previously commonly held misconceptions (eg that victims are undeserving having ‘made their own choices’).
Ultimately, it is anticipated that this will then enable professionals to translate the new knowledge gained into practice, which will subsequently help them to better understand the needs of the victim, and improve the way in which they seek to prevent, respond to, and deal with, CSE.
Det Chief Insp Vince Grey, who is the CSE lead for Milton Keynes Local Policing Area, said: “Having attended one of the performances myself, I could see the impact on the students the production had.
“It was extremely informative and, through roleplay, highlighted a real life case that brought to life some of the issues facing young people and the dangers of CSE.
“The actors then went on to engage with the students directly about how they can be involved in the process of safeguarding themselves through better knowledge of their use of social media and other chat type forums. Also discussed were the various agencies that exist in the Milton Keynes area that could provide guidance and support to any young person who needed further information or help.
“Equally important was the role that family and friends had to play in identifying any potential issues around CSE and engaging with those they had concerns about.
“CSE is a horrible crime that can have devastating effects on the individuals concerned and far wider effects on the families of the victims.
“Thames Valley Police and our partners across the Milton Keynes area are dedicated to bringing those offenders to justice who perpetrate such terrible crimes and ensuring that we offer the best support and guidance that we can. Through such productions as Chelsea’s Choice, we can try to provide information to help young people make informed decisions and be aware of the dangers.”
Colin Wilderspin, Head of Community Safety at Milton Keynes Council, said: “We have received some positive feedback from the schools and students who attended the sessions.
“Chelsea’s Choice provided a great opportunity to raise local awareness of what is a national issue to children and young people. CSE is a hidden crime. Young people often trust their abuser and don’t understand or realise that they’re being abused.
“The real life drama and workshop provided a thought-provoking opportunity for students to understand the issue.”
The Thames Valley Police Milton Keynes CSE engagement officer and a social worker attended the performances, supported by representatives from sexual health advice service Brook and Compass Health, so that, should a young person have wanted to speak to/make a disclosure following the performance, they were able to speak with an independent professional.
For more information on Chelsea’s Choice, visit the Alter Ego website