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Project launches in Hackney and Islington to combat gang rape and forced oral sex

16:21 16 November 2012

A new initiative launched last week to help vulnerable woman in Hackney and Islington combat gang rape and forced oral sex, including the “line up” phenomenon.

Safe Choices, an initiative run by Nia - an organisation which helps combat violence against women and children - will work with 13-25 year old females at risk of sexual violence, sexual exploitation and gang-association.

Dr Julia Long. Head of Operations for Safe Choices told the Gazette: “What we’ve found from previous Safe Choices projects is that the young people we work with are vulnerable to a number of things, like domestic or partner violence, they have little adult support, fraught relationships with parents or carers, and they might be unlikely to trust other services.”

Gang rape and forced oral sex might be issues that need to be confronted.

“Gang culture has a phenomenon of line ups where a woman may be coerced into performing oral sex on a line of men. It can get quite sensationalist though, and we just don’t know if these women have experienced this,” said Dr Long.

She continued: “They don’t necessarily have to be involved in gang culture but it is one of the referral criteria.

“These are young women presenting with often quite serious and high risk situations like their own violent offending or being victims of violent offending,” she added.

“In a way the project challenges the idea of victims and perpetrators, because violence has become a normal part of their lives,” she added.

“It’s a complex area of work, all the gang initiatives and youth offending teams have a vested interest in us preventing the women offending.”

The women, some of whom will be leaving care or custody, will be provided with one-to-one support as well as group sessions covering topics like sexual consent, anger, identity and risk.

“The approach we take is we work very much with the young woman and she’s at the centre of the work, we value and respect and listen to her perspective and act a as an advocate for her,” said Dr Long.

“One of the things we are conscious of is the need for our project worker to put in time building up a relationship of trust with that woman.

“Safe Choices is an excellent example of an intervention that puts young women at the centre, and gives them the support they need to keep themselves safe and make positive choices,” said Carlene Firmin, MBE, from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner at the launch last Thursday at the brand new Forest Road Youth Hub in Haggerston, Hackney.

Safe Choices is funded by the Big Lottery Reaching Communities programme.

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