The STAGE Partnership L...

The STAGE Partnership Launch Report to Shine Light on the Experiences of Women who have been Groomed for Sexual Exploitation

November 2023

2 Min Read

A new report published by the STAGE Project shines a light on the experience of women who have been targeted, groomed and sexually exploited across the North East and Yorkshire, and calls for urgent change.

The report, Changing The Narrative: Understanding the Realities of Adult Exploitation, seeks to amplify the voices of over 700 women supported by the STAGE Project, funded by the National Lottery Community Fund and bringing together charities Changing Lives, A Way Out, GROW, Together Women, Basis, WomenCentre, Ashiana and the Angelou Centre to provide support women who have been groomed for sexual exploitation across the North East and Yorkshire.

The report highlights that Adult Sexual Exploitation, and the victim/survivors of ASE are widely misunderstood. The false narratives placed onto these individuals can perpetuate harmful victim-blaming and leave people vulnerable to further harm and exploitation. Lack of recognition that a crime has taken place or that women are not making free choices can prevent vulnerable people from accessing the support that they need and are entitled to. The report calls for urgent change:

  • The government to consult on a comprehensive statutory definition of adult sexual exploitation and guidance for key agencies to be introduced through secondary legislation.
  • The creation of a national strategy focusing specifically on adult sexual exploitation in all its forms, bringing together a focus and actions from both violence against women and girls and modern slavery.
  • Giving space for those who have experienced sexual exploitation to share their story, and being ready to listen when they do. Whether it’s a GP’s office or the Houses of Parliament, these people’s voices have been silenced for too long, allowing this false narrative about their lives to persist.

Laura Mcintyre, Head of Women and Children’s Services at Changing Lives, says:

“Our report holds a mirror up to the experiences of the women we support, many of whom have experienced significant trauma in their lives. Adult sexual exploitation is systemic across our towns and cities, yet despite all of the evidence from police investigations and safeguarding reviews, women are still being left to fall through the gaps. We must act now to change the narrative that women are simply too hard to reach.”

Vicky Hugill, Service Manager at A Way Out, says:

“Here at A Way Out our STAGE worker has supported numerous women across Teesside who have experienced significant Sexual Exploitation. We see the lasting impact that grooming, violence, abuse, rape, and assault have on women. It affects their Physical Health, Mental Health, Substance Misuse, breakdown of family dynamics and increases risk of self-harm and suicide.

"This is happening in our towns and villages, on our doorsteps. Sadly, we have seen the ultimate cost to a woman…the cost of losing her life as a direct result of Sexual Exploitation. We will continue to support those in our local communities, we will continue to campaign, we will continue to help break the taboo of shame many feel and most importantly we will raise up the voices of the women we work with, ensuring they are seen, and they are heard.”

The report will be officially launched in the Houses of Parliament on Monday 27th November, with contributions from MPs, peers and commissioners.

Read the full report here.