Exploitation is a term which encompasses a wide range of criminal acts. These crimes can be committed by one person or by many. At any one time a single act of exploitation could take place, but quite often a victim is made to endure multiple crimes.
One of the most damaging things about being exploited is that it can leave a person even more vulnerable to further harm in the future. It can have a huge impact on someone’s life chances. The safety decisions that people make in order to survive abuse and exploitation may mean they become isolated from friends and family, miss school or lose out on other opportunities.
While a person who is being exploited is vulnerable and often in need of help to change their situation, they are also amongst the strongest and the most resilient people you will meet.
The VRU is determined to support communities and organisations to: better identify exploitation; to take prompt and effective action to stop harm from occurring; to support victims to recover and to thrive; and to ensure that the west midlands becomes a place where it is no longer possible to hurt others in this way.
The West Midlands has created a local definition of exploitation:
‘An individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, control, manipulate or deceive a child, young person (under the age of 18), or adult and exploits them a) through violence or the threat of violence, and/or b) for the financial or other advantage of the perpetrator or facilitator and/or c) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants. The victim may have been exploited even if the activity appears consensual. Exploitation does not always involve physical contact, it can also occur through the use of technology.’
No single agency can tackle exploitation in isolation. We must work together to do so.
To lead and oversee work on preventing and reducing exploitation, four strategic multi-agency boards have been established. These each report into the West Midlands Community Safety Partnership to ensure that there is single oversight and challenge to exploitation across the region.
- Criminal Exploitation and Missing
- Modern Slavery and Human Trafficking
- Rape and Serious Sexual Offences
- Domestic Abuse
While there are some actions that each board is taking that are specific to the type of harm they are trying to prevent, there are also a number of shared priorities. All four boards are seeking to:
- Ensure all agencies are working effectively together to tackle exploitation.
- Ensure professionals have the skills and confidence required to prevent, identify and respond to exploitation.
- Develop sector-led improvement programmes and identify and share good practice
- Develop a thorough understanding of exploitation in the West Midlands by collecting and analysing information, data and intelligence.