A hard-hitting new film from U.K. charity, The Children’s Society, exposes the harsh reality of child sexual exploitation.
The two-minute film “Growing Pains” is directed by Sam Miller (Luther) and charts significant childhood moments. Whilst a camera tracks through an unremarkable family home and into teenage Emily’s bedroom, the shot lingers on a growth chart, of the kind kept by millions of families, etched on a wall.
A girl’s voice talks through the milestones, beginning with her first steps and getting a new teddy. As the story unfolds, the “milestones” become darker and it’s clear the girl has been abused by a group of men. She says, “I met their friends. They drink a lot. I don’t like where they touch me,” and later, “Abused by all of them tonight. I blacked out.”
The campaign, created by agency VCCPme, also includes a direct mail element in the form of a full-size wall chart. The initiative comes in the wake of a report by the Children’s Society, “Old Enough To Know Better? Why sexually exploited teenagers are being overlooked”. The report found many sex crimes against older teenagers go unreported because the victims are scared they will not be believed and furthermore, are let down by the law, which does not afford 16 and 17-year-olds with the same protections as younger children in the U.K., leaving them particularly at risk.
The new report builds on the charity’s existing campaign and study, “Seriously Awkward: How vulnerable 16-17-yearolds are falling through the cracks”, which examines what happens when an older teenager reports they are being exploited. The Seriously Awkward campaign is calling on the U.K. Government to “strengthen the law so that all 16 and 17-year olds being sexually exploited are protected from harm, get the support they need and the justice they deserve”.