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'If There Are Gangs, There's Sexual Exploitation' - Ex Gang Member Tells Sputnik

© Photo : CC0UK Graffiti Street Art
UK Graffiti Street Art - Sputnik International
The breakdown in law and order across Britain is creeping up the political agenda but the reasons why youth crime is high and rising remain overlooked, despite the number of people willing to talk about it. In a series of articles for Sputnik, we hear what they have to say.

"Everyone's focusing on the boys because of the murders, but what about the girls?" Kendra Houseman, a former gang member now child sexual exploitation specialist told Sputnik.

"Police reckon there are 250 gangs in London, how many girls are attached to that for exploitation? I don't want to think about those numbers because it will hurt my heart," she adds.

"If there are gangs, there's child sexual exploitation. It's about power," says Kendra.

London's Metropolitan Police Service is currently investigating at least 73 murders that have been committed since the start of 2018; it's thought many of the killings are gang related.

"A Hidden, Dirty Crime"

"Child Sexual Exploitation, CSE, is a hidden crime, a dirty crime; the girls don't want to talk about it, the perpetrators don't want to talk about it, the witnesses don't want to talk about it. People don't want to talk about it," says Kendra.

"Girls can't talk about it, if other people find out they'll be kicked out of the subculture they're already in. Girls learn to be quiet," she says. "And when we do talk about it, it's so shocking the child element gets lost in the narrative." she says.

In 2013 and in the wake of the Rochdale scandal involving underage girls in the north of England who were sexually exploited by a group of Pakistani men and the exposure of Jimmy Savile as Britain's most prolific pedophile, the House of Lords asked the government what steps it was taking to prevent child sexual abuse.

"My Lords, research suggests that at least one in 20 young adults in the UK experienced sexual abuse as a child, but most incidents are not reported to the police," Baroness Howarth of Breckland said.

In 2016, 17,600 children were thought to be at risk of sexual abuse in England and Wales, according to the UK's center for expertise on child sexual abuse run by the Home Office, which suggests cases of exploitation are still unreported.

Child Sexual Exploitation — CSE

"Most CSE remains hidden and is never reported to, or uncovered by an official agency", the center's scoping report states. "Recording cases as CSE is relatively recent, with some agencies yet to do it at all."

Political and legal rhetoric surrounding child sexual exploitation and abuse has only recently been changed, despite the growing prevalence of CSE and high profile cases reported in the media. Official terminology in the Sexual Offences Act 2003 has only recently been amended. 

In 2015 a new clause "Child Sexual Exploitation" (CSE) was added and the word "prostitution" was substituted by "sexual exploitation" and the phrase "become a prostitute" was substituted by "be sexually exploited."

However Kendra says there are even deeper issues surrounding the sexual exploitation of young people.

"What's more under-reported than CSE, is the huge percentage of boys being sexually exploited by gangs," Kendra reveals. "It is openly known men will assault other men in prisons to prove dominance so why don't people think that takes place in gangs?" Kendra asks.

"There's the sexual exploitation of boys, gangs embarrassing boys, lending out boys to other people to prove dominance, I've known boys turn other boys into drug addicts. If they can't mug off a boy enough to make them do an act on another boy they'll do it."

Recent Home Office data suggests 15 percent of young girls and five percent of boys experience some form of sexual abuse by adults and peers before they're 16 years old. However outside estimates suggests that number could be as high as 30 percent for girls and 23 percent for boys, according to the Center of expertise for CSE.

Kendra wants to see greater care for young people in the long term. "These young people need wrap around care it shouldn't be that at year 11 they just go. The wrap around care is not there for people in gangs or CSE. They're looked at as criminals already."

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The number of child sexual exploitation cases shot up by 66 percent in 2017, following the use of county lines by crime gangs who force children to traffic drugs and money between cities and small rural towns, according to the National Crime Agency.

"Dealers will usually use a single phone line to facilitate the supply of class A drugs — primarily heroin and crack cocaine to customers. The county line becomes a recognized and valuable brand and is therefore protected with violence and intimidation," the NCA says

​​Kendra is the Gangs & Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Interventions & Protection Manager at a secondary school in Kent and works every day towards preventing the abuse of young people while "the government only seeks advice when there's a crisis," she told Sputnik.

READ MORE: UK Exploitation Revealed: 'Where Traffickers Flourish & Children Suffer"

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