Viewers of Coronation Street have expressed their shock at the hard-hitting plot which sees 16-year-old Bethany groomed and sexually exploited by Nathan, a man in his 30s.
Writers on the show have revealed that they engaged in heated debate about whether the issue should be tackled in the popular ITV soap.
But the programme makers were right to tackle such a difficult subject. It’s an extremely serious issue and a light should be shone on it.
This kind of grooming, exploitation and abuse goes on under people’s noses every day so it’s vital that parents and carers, as well as teachers and other professionals, are able to spot the warning signs so children and young people can be protected.
Barnardo’s is leading the fight against child sexual exploitation and last year we supported almost 2,500 young people, parents and carers across the UK who have been affected, although the true number of victims is likely to be much higher.
Like Bethany, the young victims of this crime mistakenly think these abusers care for them. But ‘gifts’ of alcohol and mobile phones can be used to control and manipulate them into doing things they don’t want to do.
Men and women from all cultural groups, ethnicities and religions are sexually exploiting children so it’s absolutely critical that as many people as possible are aware of the signs of grooming so we can prevent abuse.
Education around exploitation is a key tool in the fight to tackle this issue. ‘Real Love Rocks’ is a Barnardo’s resource that can be used by primary and secondary school teachers to teach young people about healthy relationships and how to spot the signs of CSE, both in the real world and online. The interactive toolkits are age appropriate and have been co-produced with young people, giving real life situations.
Bethany’s story is a stark reminder that children and young people across the country need the type of support Barnardo’s offers. It’s brave programming by Coronation Street’s creators and could protect children from abuse and exploitation.
Assistant Director for
Barnardo’s West Region