Soap Storyline Welcomed to Break Down Sexual Exploitation Taboos

17 January 2019

Catherine Arkley is chair of Safe and Sound – a specialist local charity that supports young people across Derbyshire who have experienced or are at risk of child sexual exploitation and abuse.

In her first column, she commends the popular soap ‘Emmerdale’ for tackling this often taboo subject with their on-going teacher/pupil storyline.

“Soap operas are renowned for successfully tackling a wide range of issues and raising public awareness and understanding of uncomfortable subjects.

These popular primetime television programmes are credited with breaking down the taboos of such issues over the years as mental health and domestic violence.

The unfolding ‘Emmerdale’ plot about a teacher grooming a teenage boy must therefore be commended for highlighting the dangers of sexual exploitation and abuse.

It has shown the manipulative control that this woman has had on an increasingly vulnerable and confused teenage boy.

Tackling the misconceptions that this form of abuse only affects girls and addressing the taboos that offenders can be women as well as men and from all walks of life is a brave subject to tackle.

My hope is that this will now prompt frank conversations amongst families about the potential dangers facing children and young people of all ages, genders, backgrounds and cultures in our local communities.

Research by the NSPCC shows that one in 20 children experience sexual abuse – including sexual exploitation.  However, as most sexual abuse is not reported or detected, it is difficult to assess the true scale of the issue.

Whether it occurs online or in person – perpetrators of grooming can be manipulative and controlling. They will exploit a young person’s vulnerability and coerce them into doing things and can potentially scar them emotionally and physically for the rest of their lives.

The grooming process is complex and results in a highly manipulative relationship.  Sadly many young people think they are responsible.  Often they do not even realise that they are being abused.

Safe and Sound’s specialist support team has worked with hundreds of young people across Derbyshire to enable them to come to terms with their experiences so that they are no longer trapped or defined by them.

We are currently looking to develop innovative and effective information and education programmes to raise awareness amongst the public and professionals of the issues, the warning signs and the support available here in Derbyshire.

Whether you are an avid viewer of ‘Emmerdale’ or not – I would urge you to learn more about the warning signs of grooming – both directly and online and where you can get help and advice.

Notes to the editor:

For more information please contact Sarah Jenkin-Jones, JJPR, Tel: 01332 515102/07951 945665; [email protected]