Updated: Sunday, 24th March 2019 @ 6:39am

Manchester's 'vast' hidden sex crime shame: Trafficking, forced marriage and FGM

Manchester's 'vast' hidden sex crime shame: Trafficking, forced marriage and FGM

| By Eddie Davies

Hidden sex crimes are rife across Manchester, with ‘vast’ amounts of sexual violence, human trafficking and female genital mutilation going ‘unreported’, according to a council report.

The report – Tackling Hidden Crimes and Behaviours – published on January 14 by Manchester City Council states that the city is a ‘hotspot’ for unreported sex crimes such as female genital mutilation (FGM). 

It also cited an 'interconnectivity' between some of the crimes, such as trafficking and sexual exploitation, and also between forced marriage and FGM. 

The report said: "It is apparent that the breadth of hidden crimes and behaviours is vast and this report provides an overview of some of the work taking place locally."

It concluded: "The CSP along with partners are determined to bring hidden crimes into the
open by encouraging victims to report these crimes and behaviours.

"We will work with partners to break down the barriers that exist to prevention, identification and response to behaviours and crimes that can remain hidden."

Witnesses testified at the report’s reading that levels of street sex workers had increased 60% on last year and there is a ‘constant churn’ of hidden sexual offences. 

Kate Allison, a spokesperson for Manchester Action on Street Health (MASH), an organisation which aids sex workers, said: “We are extremely busy. We were increasingly busy last year. We saw over 1,100 individual women.

“What we are seeing is an increase in women returning to sex work, who had previously stopped who are doing a bit as a response to a financial crisis.”

According to the report sex workers are particularly vulnerable to violence and because of the hidden nature of the work and stigma attached to it, victims are less likely to report incidents.

Mrs Allison said there is consistent evidence suggesting the majority of sex workers will be subject to violence at some point and many had disclosed unreported rapes and sexual assaults to the centre.

Discussing a recent drop-in session, she said: “First of all one of our regular service visitors disclosed that she had been raped but she did not want to reveal it.

“Then another woman came in, it was only her second time out working on the street. She disclosed a historic rape, child abuse and ongoing fears of violence in her current relationship.

“While we were talking to her about the support we could offer, the room she was in shook as another woman was violently pushed against the window of the interview room and she nearly fell through.”

The woman was reportedly covered in blood but was unwilling to cooperate with the centre and soon left.

The police were called but were unable to locate her the next day.

The report provided an overview of some of the work taking place across Manchester to tackle hidden crimes with particular focus on hate crime, female genital mutilation, forced marriage, trafficking and sexual violence.

The protection of vulnerable people and tackling hidden crimes and behaviours are two of the priorities for the Community Safety Partnership, which is made up of representatives of authorities including the police, local authorities, fire and rescue authorities, probation and health service. 

Image courtesy of Matthew Purple Mattfish, with thanks.