A hard-hitting play about child sexual exploitation is to be performed for thousands of Derbyshire students as part of a new education and prevention project.
A six-week city and countywide tour of ‘Chelsea’s Choice’ began on Monday, November 3, funded by Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Boards, the Police and Crime Commissioner for Derbyshire, and Safer Derbyshire.
The 45-minute play is based on the real-life experiences of exploited children and will be followed by 45-minute question and answer sessions and discussion about child sexual exploitation.
It will tour 72 schools and pupil support centres before coming to an end on 12 December.
Christine Cassell, Independent Chair of both Derby and Derbyshire Safeguarding Children Boards, said: “This is an important part of the work we are doing in Derby and Derbyshire to protect children and young people.
“We hope this play will raise students’ awareness and understanding and help reduce their risk of sexual exploitation by giving them knowledge of how to act and who to speak to if they feel they are in danger.
“Our work is particularly relevant given the recent high profile cases across the country.
“All agencies in Derby and Derbyshire are working closely together to do everything we can to make sure our young people have on-going education to support them and prevent problems from developing.”
Derbyshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Charles, who is co-funding the project, said everything possible must be done to raise awareness in children, parents and carers.
He added: “The more knowledge we can give children the less chance there is of them becoming a victim to predatorial abusers.
“It’s a depressing fact that the depraved individuals who abuse children rely on their innocence and the great thing about Chelsea’s Choice is that it covers a difficult subject with sensitivity, to good effect.
“Sadly, this remains a topical subject. It is my hope that through initiatives such as Chelsea’s Choice, victims and vulnerable young people will be signposted to appropriate support services, while teachers and adults will learn what signals they need to watch for.
“I would ask all young people to look out for each other and IF YOU SEE SOMETHING; SAY SOMETHING.
“By highlighting the issue I hope that we will successfully reduce the opportunity for abusers.”
Police officers will attend every performance and Derbyshire Constabulary will be hosting virtual surgeries to provide additional advice, support and help every Tuesday and Thursday throughout the play’s tour, between 4pm and 8pm, at www.derbyshire.police.uk/chelseaschoice| or by calling police on 101, or Derbyshire County Council’s social care staff on 01629 533190.
Detective Superintendent Andy Stokes, head of Derbyshire Constabulary’s public protection unit, said: “It’s important for young people to be aware that there are others in society who may take advantage of them.
“We hope that by having officers at each performance and available through the virtual surgeries we’ll give everyone the opportunity to speak to us.
“Anyone who is affected by exploitation or has concerns about their friends can discuss their fears or feelings with us.
“They should have confidence that we will treat them seriously and do everything we can to help them.”
Alter Ego Theatre Company is performing ‘Chelsea’s Choice’, which it has also toured in other areas of the country.
Safe and Sound, a Derby-based organisation which works to end child sexual exploitation will provide additional support at the performance sessions and provide an information leaflet to be shared with parents and carers.