The criminal exploitation of young people is increasingly recognised as a risk facing young people, particularly when they are growing up in communities that are impacted by gang culture. Although this form of exploitation is characterised by the grooming of young people, the grooming process differs from the gift-based grooming associated with sexual exploitation and is underpinned by fear and threats of violence. Partners were keen to expand the positive impacts being delivered by Ariel’s SafeSkills programme by expanding it to encompass grooming for criminal exploitation.
Ariel developed a co-creation project with the aim of developing a new module for the SafeSkills resource. We delivered creative workshops designed to open up safe spaces where the participants could talk about their experiences and explore the impacts of gang culture in their community. The young people particularly raised issues about how gangs use pressure not to be a 'grass' in order to force young people into increasing levels of criminality.
The workshops explored the fact that this culture of not ‘grassing’ was actually a form of exploitation and explored different ways young people could respond if they faced this pressure. Participants developed storyboards and scenarios and by the end of the project were role playing positive communication strategies that they could use to ask for help either as the victim or as a friend who sees this happening. With the support of funding from Merseyside Violence Reduction Partnership and Morrisons Foundation these materials have been developed into ‘Grassing or Grooming?’, a forth module in the SafeSkills resource.