by NADEEM BADSHAH
A CHARITY is set to tackle child sex abuse in a city devastated by a grooming scandal.
The Freedom Charity plans to visit Newcastle University in October to speak to students and urge them to report gangs who prey on young girls.
It has spoken to around 50,000 young people in secondary schools and colleges in the past three years on issues like so-called honour abuse in a pioneering project.
Seventeen men and one woman were found guilty in Newcastle-upon-Tyne last month of being involved in a network where vulnerable women and girls were plied with drink and drugs before being assaulted.
Juries found the men guilty of nearly 100 offences including rape, human trafficking, conspiracy to incite prostitution and drug supply between 2011 and 2014. Northumbria Police paid £10,000 to a convicted rapist to befriend the gang members and arrange parties to catch them with victims.
Aneeta Prem, who runs the Freedom Charity, revealed her project aims to stop future generations becoming groomers. In an interview with Eastern Eye, Prem said: “It’s about how young people view domestic violence and themselves, also reporting abuse immediately, having zero tolerance.
“What a groomer is trying to do, buying gifts, telling you what to wear. Using the Rochdale [grooming scandal in 2012] as a case study, (we hope) young people really understand about victims being in debt to gangs and becoming a drug runner or involved in prostitution.
“With young boys, during assembly, we ask them to stand up if they are against Female Genital Mutilation and say not in my name. Young men aged 13-15 are very protective of females generally.”
Freedom’s talks in schools is supported by The Home Office and Department of Education. It has also carried out campaigns to raise awareness of forced marriages.
The Newcastle grooming case is the fifth major child abuse ring jailed involving Pakistani-origin men since 2010 following scandals in Oxford, Derby in Derbyshire, Rochdale in Greater Manchester and Rotherham in Yorkshire.
Prem, who was previously the Metropolitan Police Authority’s lead member for forced marriages and dishonour-based violence, said labelling entire communities is not helpful but the race angle needs to be explored.
She added: “We can’t be PC about it; if it’s a group of men from one background we cannot shy away from that. We are not labelling all men. It doesn’t help shielding them, we have to out them to the police. We will be asking schools in Newcastle too.
“The students are shocked but are passionate to do something about it. They come away uplifted and are determined to stop this. We are trying to get into communities and asking religious leaders, you must know this was happening. You have to take responsibility and use positive role models.”
It comes after Nazir Afzal, former crown prosecutor, told Eastern Eye last month that urgent government research needs to be carried out on why so many Pakistani-origin men have been jailed for street grooming offences.