TEACHERS should look out for signs that pupils might be the victims of child sex abuse - but also for indications they could become the perpetrators, a victim of abuse in Rotherham has told a conference.
Emma Jackson, who was abused by a sex ring in the South Yorkshire town in the early 2000s, said prevention and early intervention was the key to stopping such horrific cases happening again and school staff could play an important role in this.
Speaking at the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) education conference in London, Ms Jackson said little signs, like her school work starting to suffer after she began to be abused by a group of men when she was 13, were not picked up.
Ms Jackson, now 26, said she eventually became a “nightmare” at school, but no one ever asked her why she was “constantly picked up outside school gates by strange adult men in cars”.
Hooked on drugs her abusers gave her, her behaviour eventually became so bad she was excluded from school and at 15 her parents decided the family should move abroad to remove her from the situation.
“We need to start looking for signs of CSE (child sex exploitation) and signs of grooming,” she told the conference.
“If you’ve got a kid who’s relatively happy - I was not showing signs of distress - but my work was dropping off. Things like that - a change of friendship groups.”
Ms Jackson, from Sheffield, was initially befriended by a group of teenage boys not much older than she was, who then introduced her to older men.
They acted kindly to her at first to gain her trust, before going on to repeatedly rape her.
“We’ve got to be aware of the victims of CSE but also the perpetrators,” she added.
“Everyone has gone to school. They will display behavioural signs of perpetration, only subtle.
“They might lift a girl’s skirt and think that’s OK. Little signs - look out for them.
“We’ve got to prevent victims becoming victims and children becoming perpetrators. Adults will groom children to groom for them.”
She said building children’s confidence and self esteem could help prevent young girls like her becoming vulnerable to being groomed.
Ms Jackson, who has written a book and now works to prevent child sexual exploitation, said that coming from a happy home and having a “brilliant” relationship with her parents, she was not the stereotypical victim of sex abuse.
“Nobody’s immune from child sexual exploitation and grooming,” she added.
“I was not on the radar at all and that’s why my exploitation went on so long, and the only way it could be stopped was for my parents to leave the country.
“I’ve been to hell and back but I’ve learned the hard way, and young people shouldn’t have to learn like I did.”