My name is Catherine Arkley and I am chairman 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.
Soap operas are renowned for successfully tackling a wide range of issues and raising public awareness and understanding of uncomfortable subjects.
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 mis-conceptions 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 among families about the potential dangers facing children and young people of all ages, genders, backgrounds and cultures in our local comm-unities.
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 effective 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.
Please visit www.safeandsoundgroup.org.uk to find out how you can help us continue to tackle child sexual abuse and exploitation.