Ann Coffey


Stockport Express Column – November 2013

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Young people are growing up in an overtly sexualised world which is far more difficult than anything we had to negotiate when we were children.

You only have to listen to and watch current explicit music videos to understand how difficult it must be for some young people to understand the idea of consent.

The Robin Thickes song “blurred lines” has now been banned from about twenty student unions because they believe it promotes rape with lyrics describing a woman as an “animal” who “wants it”.

If young boys really believe that, then it gives no space for the idea of “consent” from young girls.

A hard hitting report out this week from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner reveals that children in England are continuing to be sexually exploited in gangs and groups and that authorities responsible for their safety are not listening to children properly and doing enough to protect them.

We saw that recently in Stockport when three men were jailed for sexually abusing two Stockport teenagers. One of the victims said that nobody took any notice of her and that her mum’s pleas had been “disregarded”.

This is a familiar story and the same claims were made by some of the child victims in the Rochdale and other sexual exploitation cases.

Worrying, the Children’s Commissioner encountered over and over again, evidence of forced or coerced sex by young people against young people taking place in an extraordinary casual way. The issue of “consent” was muddled in many young people’s minds and some did not understand it at all.

Children aged between 13 to 14 were the most muddled about consent.

This makes it essential that every school and youth service provides quality relationship and sex education to help children negotiate this minefield.