Girls as young as 11 in Rushmoor and Hart are at "a very real risk of sexual exploitation" and are being asked to send nude photographs of themselves to men, a charity has revealed.
Creating Futures, which supports young people to help them make a better future for themselves, has revealed it questioned a group of teenagers who it deemed to be at risk or vulnerable.
Answers from the focus group revealed 12 girls, aged 13 to 15, had between them been asked to send topless photos online more than 470 times, and admitted to sending more than 240.
Creating Futures project manager Claire Dixon, said: “They had received more than 220 requests for [fully] naked pictures, and in just over 40% of these cases they had not personally known the person asking.
“They had been asked to meet people in person through online contact over 30 times, with 29% of requests coming from males they did not know.
“There are girls as young as 11 in Rushmoor and Hart that we know of who are at very real risk of sexual exploitation through both on and offline grooming, and we want to support as many young people as possible to reduce the risks and equip them with strategies to keep them safe.”
The feedback was gathered during a recent project to empower young women against sexual exploitation.
Tracey Clement, chief executive of Creating Futures, added: “It [the focus group] was originally a group of 12 girls on a six-week project – we looked at puberty, assertiveness and learning to say ‘no’. We did a section on the dangers of the internet and keeping yourself safe online, which included [a section] about sending photos of yourself naked and issues such as ‘sexting’.
“All of this was fed back to Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP), who monitor this stuff.
“We talked about online and offline grooming, and we did a flip chart with the girls and just asked the girls how many times they had been in these situations.”
She added that Creating Futures works closely with police in Hart and Rushmoor, and the charity is hoping it can raise money to be able to offer this project in schools and to young people with learning difficulties, as they can be particularly vulnerable.
Mrs Clement said people need to be made aware that child sexual exploitation is happening.
“I found it really quite surprising,” she added. “You see these sorts of things on the national news but by talking to women we are finding they are at risk of sexual exploitation.
“People aren’t aware this is happening on their doorstep.
“A lot of young people are spending more time online and have their phones with them – who knows what your children are getting up to?”
She said parents need to make an effort to be aware of what their children are doing online.
“I have three children and I make sure I am friends with them on Facebook and follow them on Instagram to keep an eye on them. All parents, and teachers at schools, need to be aware of it.
“It mainly starts on Facebook then quite often goes on to Snapchat or Whatsapp, and parents need to be aware of these as well.”
- To find out more, to book talks on these issues or to volunteer for the charity, contact Creating Futures on 01252 545265