Child protection experts are visiting places of worship in London
as part of an attempt to ensure some faith groups’ cultural reluctance
to talk about sex does not leave youngsters vulnerable to abuse.
Staff from Barnardo’s are also concerned that religious views
prizing virginity and heterosexuality make it more difficult for victims
to speak out, as they fear retribution or rejection.
Places of worship, including mosques and evangelical churches, will
be visited to increase awareness of the risks and make it easier for
any targeted children to seek help.
The visits, part-funded by The Big Lottery, are part of a programme called Stop It Before It Starts which was launched in Wandsworth this week.
A Barnardo’s spokesman said: “Among the borough’s diverse
communities, there may sometimes be a tendency to avoid openly
discussing the risk of sexual exploitation and how to respond to it.”
Serrina Lobban, who will work for the charity with Wandsworth faith
and cultural groups, added: “By working closely with community leaders I
hope to reach as many people as possible, helping them to understand
that sexual exploitation is always a danger no matter what someone’s
faith or cultural background.”
The risk of sex abuse affecting those from religious backgrounds was
highlighted in a recent Barnardo’s report, which warned that victims
come from all ethnic communities, “regardless of how conservative or
‘protected’ children may appear”. Lynn Gradwell, Barnardo’s London
director, said she knew “we’re only scratching the surface of this
issue” in the capital.
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