What is WiSE?
YMCA WiSE is a Child Sexual Exploitation Project which works in the South East. We are based within YMCA DLG and work with young people from 11-25. Our primary focus of work is supporting young people affected by exploitation by raising awareness, educating and empowering. Typically, we do this in 1-2-1 sessions with the young person, but we also deliver support in schools, consultations with professionals and create resources for young people. We are a non-statutory service which means we are independent from the Police and Social Services.
YMCA WiSE sometimes receives enquiries (about young males in particular) with concerns relating to young people displaying harmful sexual behaviour. When any young person displays sexual behaviour which may be considered harmful to others, it is important to consider where this behaviour has come from (experience of and/or witnessing sexual or domestic abuse) and how this behaviour may put the young person as well as others at risk of exploitation. YMCA WiSE will consider whether we are able to provide support on a case by case basis.
What is Child Sexual Exploitation?
Why is my child working with you?
Young people can self-refer to us or be referred by a parent or carer or someone who works with children and young people such as Teachers, Health Workers, Police and Social Workers. In order for a referral to be made to us, the young person must give their consent for this to happen. Nobody is forced to work with us and we allow young people to make their own decision. For a lot of young people who are being or who are at risk of CSE, their consent has been eroded away and they feel as though they have lost control so maintaining this from the start of their work with us is vital. When we receive a referral we will look carefully for indicators of CSE (either historical, current or if the young person is at risk) and then make a decision about if we can offer support and if so what type of support.
What does a session look like?
Typically, our sessions are casual and relaxed. Talking to young people about Child Sexual Exploitation can be an emotive and deeply personal topic. We place a large focus on making the young person feel comfortable and safe. We can have sessions in cafes, at the beach, on a walk or in a YMCA space. We focus on building a trusting and safe environment using conversation, resources and exploring different themes such as relationships, sex, consent, empowerment and mental health.
During Covid-19, we have adapted to working remotely and have been supporting young people via video calls and messaging. Whilst we are now able to see young people face to face we are continuing to offer remote support to young people who would like this.
Will I know what you talk about with my child?
Part of having a safe space with young people is maintaining confidentiality. We are honest and transparent with young people about what that means. We will only break confidentiality and involve others if we feel there is imminent risk posed to a child or that they have been harmed. If you have similar concerns for your child please do let us know as soon as possible.
I’m worried about my child – can I refer them to you?
Yes. Before making a referral we would ask that you take a look at our page about what is CSE. It might be that we aren’t the right service for your child, but in this instance we will try to signpost you to a service which would be more appropriate.
How can I help?
There are two ways you can help and support. The first is around supporting your child's sessions with us. Be mindful of the work we do and allow your child time and space to attend. Sometimes sessions can bring up difficult emotions and whilst we will take every effort to ensure a session ends positively and with the young person feeling safe and heard, please be mindful of this also. Some young people may need some space and time to themselves afterwards. Secondly, you can support our work by finding out more about CSE. CSE not only affects the child but the family as often parents feel anxious, stressed and worried that they are in some way to blame. Any child can be vulnerable to CSE and it is never anyone’s fault but the perpetrator who exploits them. Try to be consistent and compassionate and make space for your child to talk to you.
What if I need support?
PACE are an organisation who support parents and carers who have children who have been affected by exploitation. You can find more information about the ways in which they can support you here.