Press Association, Friday February 10 2012
A network of 13 Young People's Advocates, which will work in areas most affected by gangs, will provide direct support to young people who have been victims of sexual violence or exploitation or are at risk of becoming victims, the Home Office said.
Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone on Thursday visited the Lilian Baylis Technology School in Kennington, south-west London, where pupils were learning about gangs and sexual violence.
Speaking afterwards, Ms Featherstone said: "It's quite clear that everyone would be entirely shocked by the level of violence girls and young women have to experience if they get involved with gangs and it has been a very hidden issue.
"The fund for advocates is about putting in specialised, expert, sensitive support to work with these young girls so they can be helped. They will form a network across the country to share information and best practice to make inroads into such a horrific issue."
In the school session, specialist youth workers and serving and retired police officers from the Growing Against Gangs and Violence project discussed what being in a gang is like and how it can involve rape and violence. The project, which has received Â£30,000 from the Home Office, aims to raise awareness and change attitudes to gangs.
Detective Allen Davis, of the Metropolitan Police, said: "Girls need to know they are used and abused within gangs, that they are passed around and are second class citizens.
"Ultimately girls are disposable, it's the boys that gain status and respect by putting in work and that means committing crime and hurting people. Girls get status in this world by who they have sex with and it makes them very vulnerable, the boys have the power to use and abuse them."
Youth workers also warned the teenagers about what can happen if they become involved in gangs and criminal activity.
Mr Davis added: "We talk about the idea that girls are setting up other boys to be hurt and other girls to be raped, that the girls are there to conceal the drugs and the guns. They are there unfortunately to be used for the sexual pleasure of gang members."
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