FEATURE: How Sheffield stood together to say ‘It’s Not Okay’

NSPCC warning over online risks.
NSPCC warning over online risks.
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Sheffield NSPCC’s ‘It’s Not Okay’ campaign had one clear goal - to fight child sexual abuse and exploitation in the city.

And 12 months on from the launch of the year-long campaign, thousands of young people in the city have received support and information, via workshops, discussion groups, films and performances.

Generic neglect child abuse''NSPCC

Generic neglect child abuse''NSPCC

The Star joined forces with Sheffield NSPCC last summer, launching its own Make It Better campaign, to highlight the wonderful work being done by Sheffield NSPCC and its safeguarding partners, and the many preventative and proactive services operating throughout the city. Our weekly features inspired our readers to donate to the campaign, helping to raise funds to sponsor a theatre production and workshop, exploring themes of abuse and exploitation, which has since been performed for year seven pupils at 17 secondary schools across the city.

This month, the NSPCC and Sheffield’s Safeguarding Children Board hosted a red carpet event to mark the end of the hugely successful campaign, which has also seen hundreds of parents, teachers, social workers, and nursery staff attend workshops and training sessions, thousands of posters and resource packs sent out to schools, nurseries and children centres, the NSPCC and 02 deliver online safety workshops, and the delivery of PANTS workshops in the city’s primary schools, teaching children that their body belongs to them.

Sheffield’s new Lord Mayor, Coun Magid Magid, was guest of honour at the event, held last week at Sheffield Hallam Student’s Union, where he heard from children and young people, those living and working in Sheffield and campaign partners, about how they have supported the campaign and the impact it has made.

There was also a special screening of ‘Silence is a child’s loudest scream,’ a film produced on the subject of child sexual exploitation by a group of local 16 to 18 year olds. The group worked with the not-for-profit youth charity, Element Sheffield, as part of a four-week National Citizen Service course to produce the film, which has already been shared thousands of times via social media and is now available on the It’s Not OK campaign’s website page for even more young people to view, to help raise awareness of the warning signs.

*** Job ordered by Emma Harvey at the NSPCC ***'Pictured is Lucy Hudson (Brown Hair), Louise Bennett (Blonde Hair), Arif Aslam from the helpline staff on the phones at the call centre in Salford Quays, MANCHESTER. *** Local Caption *** Disclaimer: While Cavendish Press (Manchester) Ltd uses its' best endeavours to establish the copyright and authenticity of all pictures supplied, it accepts no liability for any damage, loss or legal action caused by the use of images supplied.  The publication of images is solely at your discretion.

*** Job ordered by Emma Harvey at the NSPCC ***'Pictured is Lucy Hudson (Brown Hair), Louise Bennett (Blonde Hair), Arif Aslam from the helpline staff on the phones at the call centre in Salford Quays, MANCHESTER. *** Local Caption *** Disclaimer: While Cavendish Press (Manchester) Ltd uses its' best endeavours to establish the copyright and authenticity of all pictures supplied, it accepts no liability for any damage, loss or legal action caused by the use of images supplied. The publication of images is solely at your discretion.

Helen Westerman, NSPCC campaign manager, said: “The campaign may have come to an end but the legacy for the city lives on with new resources now available, including the campaign website, and the commitment so clearly demonstrated by all those involved to protect our Sheffield youngsters from abhorrent child sexual abuse and exploitation. This event was our way of saying a huge thank you, to all those who have promoted the campaign with parents, children and young people.”

Jane Fidler, service manager for campaign-partner Sheffield Sexual Exploitation, said: “We’re proud to have been part of this important campaign. Our aim is to prevent sexual exploitation, protect young people in the city and offer support. ‘It’s Not Okay’ has helped to start the conversations which can be scary to think about, for adults and young people. There is fantastic work happening all over Sheffield and this campaign has showcased that, with a wide range of workshops and discussions.”

Jane Haywood, independent chair of Sheffield Safeguarding Children Board, added: “This campaign has gone to the heart of our work to prevent child sexual exploitation and abuse. Working in partnership, schools, parents, social workers, and local charities have come together to tackle the abuse and sexual offences committed against children.

“We will build on this fantastic campaign to continue to provide the information and awareness needed around child sexual abuse to protect our young people from exploitation.”

George Sumerson, a child abuse survivor, spoke emotively at the launch of the campaign last May and returned for the finale evening to speak of his approval of the campaign’s commitment to tackle child sexual abuse and exploitation. One of the key aspects of the campaign has been the opportunity for survivors of child sexual abuse to share their own experiences, and how devastatingly life-long the impact of the abuse has been for them. Among those who have stepped forward to share their stories this year, as a result of the campaign - in the hopes their experiences will encourage victims to seek help from charities like Sheffield Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, the NSPCC and Childline - is Sheffield woman *Sally.

Sally, who was raped as a young teenager by an older man. said: “Going to the Sheffield Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, and meeting other women who had had similar experience, I felt validated. Until then it was just something bad that I thought I had brought on myself, getting myself into that situation.

“I hope that my experience will help victims have the courage to come forward and get support. There are people out there who will understand. Children and young people have Childline and, for adults, no matter how much time has passed, they can ring the NSPCC’s helpline or, like I did, visit the Sheffield Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre. My main message would definitely be to get some help before it becomes a part of your life you can’t control and you start making choices because of it.”

Visit nspcc.org.uk for details.