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Safeguarding victims of Sexual Exploitation top of the agenda

17 September 2021

Over 100 professionals have taken part in the Modern Slavery Partnership’s webinar to learn about the role of policing in tackling sexual exploitation, the risks and violence experienced by those working in the sex industry and how to support them.

The sex industry is complex and often stigmatised. It is also often hidden from the wider public and it is recognised that this environment is conducive to the abuse or exploitation of those selling sex.

Police and Crime Commissioner, Donna Jones, said “Modern day slavery within the UK remains a significant threat and the number of victims being identified continues to increase year on year – both in the UK and in the Hampshire policing area.  As a Partnership it is vital that we continue to play our part in supporting these highly vulnerable people and fight to bring those accountable for their suffering to justice.

“We must seek to maximise safety and increase trust and confidence to encourage those in the sex industry to report crimes and abuse.”

Operation Hem is Hampshire Constabulary’s long-term response to on street sex working in Southampton. The aim is to support on street sex workers through the multi-agency partnership with housing, substance use, sexual health and any mental health needs at the same time as identifying and targeting perpetrators who cause the most harm to sex workers, and work with the women to help them see themselves as potential victims of exploitation. To compliment this work the Commissioner has jointly funded with Hampshire Constabulary a Modern Slavery Support Worker as a 1-year pilot aimed at supporting the needs of sex workers whilst providing a link to the Constabulary and a platform to report crime.

Modern Slavery is happening in our communities. While it can be hard to spot it could be happening at places we visit or work in such as nail bars, car washes, farms, factories or in residential properties. Figures from 2019/20 show an increase of modern slavery crimes of 17% against the previous year (+25 up to 175). The three lockdowns imposed in the UK throughout 2020 have undoubtedly had an impact so there may be a further rises.

The webinar covered support to all three cohorts of those working in the sex industry: on street, off street and online and whether from abroad or otherwise. The webinar is the last in a series that have looked at the main forms of slavery in Hampshire and the Isle of Wight: Sexual Exploitation, Labour Exploitation and County Lines. In addition the MSP has developed an e-learning package to help better equip frontline staff to identify and support those at risk of modern slavery.

Training is one part of the Modern Slavery Partnership’s renewed strategy which sets out how it will pursue perpetrators and support victims of slavery and trafficking. The strategy seeks to:

  • Increase in the number of successful prosecutions for modern slavery
  • Increase identification and enhanced support for victims
  • Increase reporting of modern slavery from professionals and the public. Increased understanding amongst professionals of their responsibilities
  • Increase information sharing and resource coordination

To find out more about modern slavery visit . If you need help, advice or information about any modern slavery issue you can contact the Modern Slavery Helpline on 08000 121 700.