Sex trafficking among the dreaming spires – Oxford’s not so hidden problem

Fighting Sexual Exploitation On Saturday, April 13 Voice for Justice UK will hold a groundbreaking conference at St Aldate’s church, Oxford, on the problems of tackling sex trafficking.  Speakers include MPs Jim Dobbin and Michael Connarty, both involved in the global campaign to combat child sex trafficking, Ben Cooley, CEO of the anti-slavery charity Hope for Justice, a representative of the Metropolitan police, social analysts, and specialists working with survivors. 

Trafficking is defined under British law as any intentional act of recruitment involving the threat or use of force or coercion for the purposes of exploitation.  It includes all cases of deliberate sexual exploitation, whether involving children and young people brought into the country from abroad, or internal rings deliberately grooming vulnerable youngsters for the purposes of prostitution or paedophilia.  The problems are complex, horrific, and largely hidden, but in the last couple of years a number of such rings have been exposed, resulting in criminal investigation and prosecution nationwide. 

Even Oxford, ivory towered bastion of academe, has seen the uncovering of two such rings in the last year, the first involving the grooming of vulnerable young girls aged between 11 to 15 by older men, luring them with promises of love, presents, and drugs; and the second involving 16 and 17 year old girls trafficked into the country from Eastern Europe, then kept in virtual imprisonment in a brothel.  Sadly, the city is not unique, as demonstrated by similar horror stories in places as far apart as Rochdale, Nottingham, Glasgow, Belfast, Newcastle the list goes on and on.   Revd Lynda Rose, CEO of Voice for Justice UK, commented, “Every month society seems beset by fresh scandal. Whether it’s the industrial scale abuse of Jimmy Savile, paedophile networks, or organised Asian and Eastern European grooming and trafficking rings, the fabric of our society is under attack.  We have a duty to protect our young people, and if that involves facing uncomfortable truths in order to deal with the problem at source, then so be it.” 

The aim of Fighting Sexual Exploitation is threefold.  First, to give people a realistic idea of the scale of the problem, and the underlying reasons that have led to this shocking development in 21st century Britain.  Second, to help recognise when and where this kind of exploitation is taking place.  And third, to link people up – encouraging existing initiatives, and maybe helping birth some new and effective strategies to help survivors. 

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