THE Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner (OPCC) has just secured £32,227 from the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) to work with vulnerable boys and young men across Cleveland.
The cash will fund a pilot scheme run by Barnardo’s Tees Valley. It will work with boys and young men who have been victims of sexual abuse or at risk from harmful sexual behaviour.
Barnardo’s will provide a safe environment, in which boys and young men can identify their support needs and access help.
A combination of activities will offer immediate specialist support including one-to-one therapy for boys and young men, who have experienced rape and sexual abuse.
At the same time, the project will encourage participants to find their voice, take risks, make better life decisions, improve their self-image and become role models for future generations.
Funded by the MOJ’s Male Rape Support Service Fund, the pilot will allow participants to influence the development of new and existing approaches by professionals to support, recovery and engagement for boys, who have experienced trauma.
Part of the pilot will also be to develop a programme of ongoing peer support through school-based activities.
They will be designed to encourage boys to develop healthy sexual relationships and divert them from harmful sexual behaviour.
Drop-in style sessions will provide safe spaces for boys and young men to explore masculinity, patriarchy, gender expectations, social media pressures and what it is like being a boy in society today.
Lack of confidence, self-belief and emotional resilience combined with negative self-image are all seen as barriers to young men engaging and accessing support.
As well as enabling boys and young men to discuss and share their experiences, school-based activities will help victims to re-connect with education, help them to achieve exam success and broaden their aspirations.
Steve Turner, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cleveland, said: “Sexual assault and abuse are often seen as a problem suffered by women and girls.
“Our research – and the experiences of Barnardo’s staff – suggest that many young men and boys are often suffering in silence.
“We want to empower boys and young males to come forward and access the support available to help them cope with sexual trauma.”
Emma Ramsay, Assistant Director Children’s Services Barnardo’s North Region, said: “We are really pleased to be able to support the identification and diversion of young men and boys from harmful sexual behaviour across Cleveland following the successful bid into the MOJ Male Rape Support Fund.
“The funding will enable us to provide therapeutic support to address their own experiences of sexual abuse and peer support through school-based activity.
“Peer support will provide safe spaces for boys/young men to explore masculinity, patriarchy, gender expectations, social media pressures and what it is like being a boy in society today.”
Information on vulnerable, exploited, missing and trafficked children in Hartlepool, Stockton, Middlesbrough and Redcar& Cleveland shows there has recently been a 31 per cent increase in the number of active cases receiving support.
A growing number of boys and young men have been accessing support. The average number of cases per quarter is 100.
In 2018/19, the gender split was on average 75 female to 25 male. In 2019/20, this had changed to on average a 50/50 split, with two local authorities in Cleveland reporting predominantly male cases.
Barnardo’s has conducted research on the sexual exploitation of young males across the UK. The charity’s evidence shows that 30 per cent of all victims of child sexual exploitation (CSE) are male. However, across all of Barnardo’s services, boys represent only nine per cent of those receiving support.
Barnardo’s has evidenced a complex relationship between gender, patterns of youth offending and risk of CSE.