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Teen advocates: Government to target sexual abuse of women in gangs

The Government has created advocate roles to help girls who are caught up in gang culture, and subjected to gang rape, violence and exploitation.

The 13 advocates will work with victims of the worst sexual crimes as well as targeting those on the fringes who are most at risk of being targeted by gangs.

Home Secretary Theresa May spoke at the launch of the initiative, held at the Lilian Baylis Technology School in Kennington, south London. She warned that young women were frequently being raped and promised £1.2m over three years to tackle the issue as part of the Government's new strategy on tackling gang culture.

Also speaking at the event was Lynne Featherstone, the Home Office minister for equality, who said that the role of girls in gangs was poorly understood and that violence against them had gone hidden for too long.

"I think people would be shocked if they could see the level of violence and abuse against girls in gangs," she said.

The new advocate positions will be allocated after a bidding process in which local charities and youth groups will be invited to participate.

"Our first priority is to protect girls who can see themselves as worthless objects to be used in unacceptable ways," added Featherstone.

During the launch, a session was held by the Growing against Gangs and Violence group. Students of the school heard that girls could be used by gangs as 'links'. Links are casual and disposable sexual partners, who could then be forced to perform sexual acts for other members of the gang. The group session focussed on the motivations which drive girls to go with boys who are involved in gangs.

Speaking after the event, Featherstone said that the new advocates would focus on creating programmes designed to change attitudes and prevent girls getting into gangs. Prevention is that aim as extracting people once in a gang is extremely difficult.

"Once they are in a gang it is very, very tough," she said. "It's a long and difficult journey and there are no quick answers."

Related links:

Read more on the story (The Guardian)

Rape and sexual assault: help for victims (FindLaw)

Find local solicitors throughout the UK (FindLaw)