Talking frankly about sexual grooming can be made easier – and more meaningful – if students create the characters involved, suggests Lily Horton…
This lesson provides a strong structure for discussion around child sexual exploitation (CSE). The foundation of the plan uses fictional characters and a research based storyline along with questions to help teachers guide young people to understand the different stages of grooming. It is a great opportunity for students to use their imaginations and empathy, whilst learning important skills to keep them safe.
WHY TEACH THIS?
Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) has sadly become a regular fixture in the news, making it increasingly important for schools to safeguard students against sexual grooming. This lesson provides teachers with a clear pathway to help students spot the signs of grooming and make sense of this complex and very real issue. The techniques used can be employed for a whole range of subjects to develop creative discussion and reflective learning.
Create a Character This very simple technique is a great way to get learners talking and thinking about the issue with genuine engagement. On a sheet of flipchart paper, or your board, draw a stick figure. Above it, add the details that this person is called Maz, is female, and is 15 years old.
Get the group into a circle (or two, depending on size). Go round asking each student in turn to provide one fact about the character. The two rules are that the suggestions must be realistic and consistent. The aim is to build and develop the character as a group, hopefully ending up with something that looks a bit like the illustration shown here (right), but with your group’s ideas.
Once everyone has had a chance to contribute (and you are happy that the character is realistic and there are no contradictions) then you can use the character to explore the following situations.
Once the character of Maz has been created read out the following extract from her diary/blog.
‘I’m so excited. I’ve met this guy through Facebook and he is so cute. His name is Tom and he’s 16. We haven’t met up yet… I’m hoping to meet up at the weekend but we’ve been messaging each other for weeks!!! Mum and Dad are getting a bit annoyed that I’m spending so much time on the laptop and my mates are a bit funny about him but I’m just so happy… I think we’re really falling for each other!’
Use the following questions run a discussion with the group:
- What might make Maz feel that she is “falling for” Tom even though they have never met?
- Why might her friends be “funny” about Tom?
- Should Maz meet up with Tom? Why/why not?
Continue the story, by reading the following statement to the group:
Maz meets up with Tom and they go to a pub together. Tom is sweet and takes a lot of interest in her. Tom gives Maz a gift of an expensive necklace with her name on it. He is clearly older than 16 though and admits that he is actually 28. They have a really good night and Tom drives her home and asks if they can meet again the next day. Maz really likes Tom.
- Should Maz meet up with Tom? Why might Maz “really like” Tom?
- Does it matter that Tom is older than he first said? Why/why not?
Explain the following to the group:
Maz and Tom start a relationship. They spend a lot of time together and after a few weeks start having sex. Maz rarely sees her friends as Tom thinks that they aren’t good for her. Tom continues to buy Maz presents, and encourages her to try new things like drinking alcohol, using drugs and watching pornography. Tom tells Maz that he loves her and wants her to move in with him so that he can keep her safe.
- How might Maz feel now about starting a relationship with Tom?
- Do you think that Maz and Tom have an equal and healthy relationship? Why/why not?
Continue the story with this update:
Maz and Tom have been together a few months. Tom takes Maz and some of her friends to a party at one of his friend’s houses. During the party Tom asks Maz to have sex with some of his friends for money. Maz does not want to and Tom becomes quite angry and says that she has to as he is in a lot of debt. Maz doesn’t know what she should do.
- How might Maz feel about Tom now?
- Why might Maz not know what she should do?
Finally, share this information with the group:
A few months have passed and the situation has got worse. Tom continues to force Maz to have sex with other men and is increasingly violent and distant. Tom is sexually exploiting Maz and threatens to hurt her if she tells anyone what is happening. n When do you think the sexual exploitation started? n What signs were there that Tom was manipulating or grooming Maz?
Remind the group that this situation would be known as grooming and sexual exploitation, and that some of Tom’s behaviours are signs that could have been spotted early on.
Explain that sexual grooming often follows a pattern shown in a model known as ‘The Grooming Line’. This usually starts with the ‘Targeting Stage’ moving to a ‘Friendship Forming Stage’ to the so called ‘Loving Relationship Stage’ and finally to an ‘Abusive Relationship’ stage. For more details on this model contact Barnardo’s.
Ask the young people to research organisations that can support people like Maz who may be involved in child sexual exploitation (CSE) You could encourage them to identify some agencies by using internet search engines, or use those listed below.
- Women’s Aid
- Child Exploitation and Online Protection centre (CEOP)
Ask each group to research a different agency and list what they think the main pros and cons are for each.
ABOUT OUR EXPERT
Lily Horton is an actor/ facilitator for Loudmouth Education & Training, working with thousands of young people each year. She believes that theatre and drama exercises create a safe environment for people to openly discuss issues in a non-personal way.
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