The sexual exploitation of children has become a ‘social norm’ in parts of Greater Manchester, according to a recent alarming report by Ann Coffey MP.
It indicates that the problem might have been “fuelled by the increased sexualisation of children and young people involving an explosion of explicit music videos and the normalisation of quasi-pornographic images”.
The report concludes that a ‘sea change’ in attitudes is needed because the widespread grooming of vulnerable girls and boys is a “real and ongoing problem”.
The report, ordered by Police and Crime Commissioner Tony Lloyd, suggests: “Sexting, selfies, Instagram and the like have given rise to new social norms in changed expectations of sexual entitlement, and with it a confused understanding of what constitutes consent.
“I think we have lost the sense of what a child is”, Coffey said. “Sexual predators out there are having their quite unacceptable views confirmed through messages in the wider media: that children are just sexualised young adults.”
During her eight month inquiry Coffey uncovered issues across all agencies including the police, care homes and the justice system, prompting her to state that the observations would make “painful reading”.
The former social worker spoke to a number of young girls who said being harassed by older men while in their school uniform was simply “part of everyday life”.
Girls disclosed that men regularly tried to touch them or entice them into their cars, but that when the police were alerted, officers told the girls not to cause trouble.
One girl told the MP: “Young people do not call the police because we know how they look down at us. We have to just focus on getting away from the guys.”
Coffey said: “I have been concerned about the number of people who have told me that in some neighbourhoods child sexual exploitation had become the new social norm”.
She added: “They say there is no respect for girls: gangs of youths pressurising vulnerable young girls (including those with learning disabilities) for sex, and adults allowing their houses to be used for drinking, drug taking and having sex”.
Coffey’s recommendations were welcomed by Chief Constable Sir Peter Fahy who insisted that specialist training was already being rolled out across the force.