I am extremely grateful for the opportunity to speak in this important debate, which shows the House at its best. As we make our voices count in the One Billion Rising campaign, we recognise that we cannot end violence against women and girls without also looking at wider attitudes in society. We need to consider how we, in our schools, our curriculums, our children’s services and our local authorities, are actively seeking to educate young people and safeguard them from dangerous and abusive situations. Alongside the resourcing of the immediate needs of those exposed to violence and abuse, we need to examine the widespread gender violence and attitudes to it that are so prevalent in society today.
As technology evolves, so, too, do the means of sexual exploitation. Grooming for sexual exploitation, the increased normalisation of sexual favours and the widespread sexualisation of the young all contribute to the vulnerability of our young people. Recent cases of systematic child grooming involving violence—often sadistic violence—for the purpose of sexual exploitation, such as those in Rochdale and Oxford, highlight just how necessary it is to equip our young people with the knowledge and resources to prevent such horrendous situations from recurring in other areas and ways.
Such cases are, in a sense, the high-profile, visible manifestations of this culture. Many young and vulnerable teenage girls, in particular, are targeted, groomed and abused in this way by such offenders and by their peers. Young people need to understand that they cannot “consent” to their own abuse and their own exploitation, and that they cannot do so must be reflected consistently by law enforcement agencies, support services and education services.