A major donation from Comic Relief has helped a Norwich charity to roll out a schools programme to make young people aware of the dangers of sexual exploitation.

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A major donation from Comic Relief has helped a Norwich charity to roll out a schools programme to make young people aware of the dangers of sexual exploitation.

More than 9,000 schoolchildren across Norfolk have benefited from the Magdalene Group’s Jigsaw project since it was relaunched over a year ago thanks to a £25,000 grant from the charity.

To find out how the Magdalene Group helped one Norwich woman, click on the link at the top right of this story.

The group has been working to help prostitutes in Norwich get out of sex work for the past 20 years, but Jigsaw is a prevention programme designed to educate young people about the risks and steer them away from a damaging and violent lifestyle.

Comic Relief cash has funded two years of the programme, which works with children as young as seven in more than 40 schools and youth clubs to alert them to the dangers of gang culture, ‘sexting’ and cyber bullying, and teach them how to stay safe online.

Targeting younger age groups is key to ensuring people have the best possible chance of avoiding falling into exploitative relationships which may ultimately end on the streets, said director Suzi Heybourne.

“We work across the spectrum to support anyone at risk of sexual exploitation,” she said.

“The money from Comic Relief has funded Jigsaw, our prevention programme, for two years.”

Through a series of interactive workshops, group leaders cover topics such as offline grooming, online grooming, internet safety and healthy relationships, and also deliver advice to parents to help them understand how their children may be using new technology.

The Jigsaw programme runs in parallel, and with the same ultimate goals, as the Magdalene Group’s outreach work on the streets of Norwich.

Over 20 years, the group has earned the trust of many vulnerable women to keep them safe and direct them out of sex work towards more stable lives.

“We make relationships with these incredibly hard-to-reach women,” said Mrs Heybourne. “There are often such complex barriers to their everyday living: debt, drug and alcohol problems, accommodation issues.

“They often don’t have family around them, and can easily find themselves the victims of coercion. It’s a horrible spiral which results in people ending up as a sex worker.

“Street-based prostitutes are the most chaotic women.

“They don’t trust very easily, and often come from backgrounds as care leavers.

“We’ve been around for a long time, and people know us, so we are able to break through and they can then learn to trust us.”

Find out more about the Magdalene Group at www.magdalenegroup.org

1 comment

  • What a lovely story, and you didn't spoil it by allowing the local MP to hijack it, just for a change.

    Report this comment

    Mr Cameron Isaliar

    Monday, February 11, 2013

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