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The BLAST project has a long and successful history of working with boys and young men across Leeds and Bradford who are at risk of, or who are being, sexually exploited. Since 2003 we have developed resources and programmes to: train professionals across the country around recognising warning signs in boys and young men and addressing myths relating to gender; delivered group sessions to boys and young men in schools and; delivered one to one support to boys and young men at risk of or who have experienced CSE across Leeds and Bradford. Many of the resources have taken the form of films which have been created to specifically engage with boys who are often invisible in such resources. However, we have seen a recent rise in the number of younger males who have been referred to us, which correlates with the rising numbers nationally of younger people being involved in grooming and CSE. With this, we realised a need for more age appropriate resources which tackle the issues at a much earlier age in order to help prevent young people from being exploited and to help them recognise the warning signs. One of the key themes running through The BLAST Project is to ensure boys and young men have access to services that practice equally and combat sexism.
For the last year, The BLAST project has worked with teachers and other professionals across Bradford Leeds and Derby to create a resource and pilot it to young people in primary schools. The resource educates young people about the warning signs of grooming and sexual exploitation and young people and professionals have been consulted to ensure suitability for the main target group. The resource takes the form of a short film and a workbook, which has been piloted with over 1000 young people in 20 schools across the three cities. The film, unlike previous BLAST resources, is aimed at both boys AND girls and is seen through the eyes of Charlie, a non-gender specific, young person who we see being groomed by their older brother’s best friend, Danny. The film aims to combat the notion of ‘stranger danger’ being the only unsafe adults, and attempts to educate young people on noticing the signs and actions of grooming, as opposed to the stereotype of what an unsafe person looks like. The film looks at ‘friendships’ formed, inappropriate gifts, online safety, lies, keeping secrets and inappropriate behaviour in order to give young people a well-rounded view of what grooming might look like in reality. The workbook also looks at how young people can spot the warning signs, who they can report any worries to and how to talk about grooming in a safe way with trusted adults. Over 90% of the young people we have delivered to have shown an increase in understanding and recognising the warning signs and a better knowledge of who to talk to if they are worried about themselves or a friend.
The film and workbooks will be available online through various websites and will be available to download nationally, for free, from the end of March. The resource will come with guidance written for teachers and other professionals on how to deliver the resource both on a group and one to one basis. It also ensures that professionals deliver the resource to full classes as we believe all genders will be able to engage and understand the film.
The making of this film has been a great learning experience for ourselves, as well as all of the professionals and young people involved and we feel that hopefully, this will make a great difference in the lives of many young people and we hope that professionals find the resource useful and enlightening. Please keep in touch with us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and through our regular newsletters for more information on our future projects, if you wish us to deliver training to your staff, or if you wish us to come and deliver sessions to your young people.