Teenagers and their parents are being warned to be wary of predators who may try to lure young people to free ‘parties’ to pressure them into sex.
West Yorkshire Police, The Leeds Safeguarding Children Board, The West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner and partners are launching a new campaign this December to warn young people to be wary if they are invited to parties or gatherings where persons present could try pressuring them into intercourse.
Officers are also urging guardians to check their children know enough about the places they are going to and, while not trying to stop them having fun, encourage them to take care and get in touch if they feel uncomfortable or get in trouble.
Evidence from previous offences suggests perpetrators can try and groom young victims by inviting them to ‘parties’ through social media or through 3rd party invites through someone they may know, but don’t know well.
Once the victims are there, the suspects then ply them with drinks or substances or pressure them through offers of free things.
They may also bribe them into doing things they aren’t comfortable with in return for a lift home, as the ‘party’ is often held in an area that the young person is unfamiliar with.
As many young people will be off school for the Christmas holidays there may be more house parties on offer, but teens are being advised of the dangers out there and that a ‘party’ at a house they don’t know may not be what it seems.
Authorities are reminding teenagers that they should feel under no compulsion to do anything that they don’t want to do and if they do start to feel uncomfortable they should leave as soon as they can and ring an adult that they trust.
The new campaign has been produced by the Force and Leeds Safeguarding Children Board in consultation with young people across the county and is being supported by partners including the West Yorkshire Police and Crime Commissioner, and Kirklees, Bradford, Wakefield and Calderdale Safeguarding Children Boards.
It will be promoted on social media using #partyanimals. A dedicated campaign page has also been set up on the West Yorkshire Police website at www.westyorkshire.police.uk/partyanimals
Assistant Chief Constable Russ Foster of West Yorkshire Police, said young people should be aware of the need to question people’s motives.
He said: “My message to parents or guardians of teenage children is that we’re not suggesting that these young people shouldn’t be allowed to go out and have fun with friends, but we want them to question why someone would offer things for free? What do they want in return?
“The evidence shows us the organiser could well have an ulterior motive and that price the young person pays could ultimately be rape.
“Our message to these young people is - “uite simply if someone that you don’t really know very well is inviting you to a party, offering free lifts, alcohol, drugs, etc, then it’s probably too good to be true.
“If you have any doubts, don’t know the person whose party it is or have never been to the house before (particularly if it’s in an area you don’t know) then don’t go.”
The Assistant Chief Constable said teenagers should never feel they had to have sex with someone, or do anything that they aren’t comfortable with and that if they did not wish to, that should be the end of the matter.
He added: “If you are pressured for sex and don’t want to then make an excuse such as pretending you’re feeling ill and lock yourself in a room such as a bathroom or go outside. Then send a text or make a phone call to a trusted adult to get someone to come and pick you up or call the police.
“Being sexually assaulted or raped is a criminal offence and you should tell someone if this happens to you. There are people who you can speak to who won’t blame you or judge you about what has happened. Be assured that West Yorkshire Police will always put your needs as a victim at the centre of the investigation” he said.
West Yorkshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Mark Burns-Williamson, said: “The festive period, in the run up to and over Christmas and the New Year, is traditionally a time of year when young people go out and have fun, however it is also a time when sexual offences are likely to increase. I want to remind people that they need to protect themselves and their families.
“If you are concerned about an invitation you or a member of your family have received to a party from people you don’t really know or that there will be ‘free’ things on offer, then be careful, the best choice is not to go. If you have any doubts or concerns speak to someone you trust – it’s better to stay safe.
“Tackling child sexual exploitation (CSE) and serious sexual offences remains a priority and I made an extra £3.5million available to West Yorkshire Police last year to deal with CSE as well as Human Trafficking and Cyber-Crime. I also allocated £440,000 to raise awareness of CSE in schools, increase support for victims, provide out of district sanctuaries for victims and establish information sharing protocols and data tracking to cross reference vulnerable people across local authority boundaries. This money was also used to fund a Safeguarding Co-ordinator. In addition local groups and organisations that help tackle CSE and provide safeguarding services have been given various grants from my Safer Communities Fund.
“Please do have fun but stay safe and if you find yourself in a situation where you feel at risk then phone someone for help – if it’s an emergency phone 999.”