London: Girls as young as 13 are using Facebook to post explicit photographs to “advertise” themselves to older gang members, police in Britain claim.
The children, who are often already involved on the periphery of street gangs, are putting up highly sexualised pictures, apparently in an attempt to gain status.
“Some of the things you see on Facebook are just horrendous - very young girls posting pictures of themselves with very little on,” the Guardian quoted Detective Chief Inspector Petrina Cribb, who leads a gang prevention programme for the Metropolitan police, as saying.
“We are talking about really, really inappropriate images of very young girls,” Cribb said.
There is growing concern at the sexual exploitation of girls by street gangs. Last week the government announced 1.2 million pounds of funding to help girls involved with gangs who are raped or abused. The equalities minister, Lynne Featherstone, described the violence young women face as shocking.
While male gang members have posted videos and pictures online, often posing with weapons or boasting about their activity, for several years, Cribb, whose Heart Programme supports youngsters at risk of becoming involved in gangs, says the problem of young girls sharing explicit pictures of themselves online was not as widely known.
“You have very young girls putting inappropriate pictures of themselves - often of sexual poses and inappropriately dressed - that is associated with this gang phenomena,” she said.
Girls who have been involved in street gangs describe how sexual favours are regularly swapped for drugs and how many young teenagers are trapped in abusive relationships - sometimes with more than one male gang member. Crib says this is a familiar pattern.
“Young girls tend not to be in the gang as such, they tend to be more on the periphery.
“They may hide firearms or deal drugs for the gang members but often they are being coerced or manipulated or pressurised into this activity or quite often feel that is just the way life is, they don’t really realise it is not like that for everybody,” she added.
The Heart Programme is run by experienced youth workers and focuses on reducing the risk of young people committing, and or being subjected to, violence, particularly sexual violence.