Helping young women and girls escape gang violence and abuse

We’ve secured almost £115,000 to prevent vulnerable young women and girls from being sexually and violently exploited.

A dedicated Young Women’s Worker (YWW) will work with girls who are either being abused or are at risk of being exploited by gang members. 

Boys and young men involved in gangs often come to the attention of the council, police and other agencies through public drug-dealing, anti-social behaviour or street violence. 

Girls make up one third of gang members

While figures show girls and young women can make up one third of gang memberships, they can remain invisible to the authorities. 

The violent and sexual exploitation young women can experience is often hidden and the resultant trauma can lead to self harm, substance misuse or suicidal thoughts.

They are often forced, through emotional, physical or sexual exploitation into storing or carrying drugs or weapons.

Helping girls leave or avoid gangs 

The new YWW will focus directly on helping young women from being drawn into gang membership and support those already involved to leave.

The YWW will offer support on a range of issues including exploitation, substance use, mental health, education and peer relationships. 

Councillor Zoe John, deputy chair of the council’s Children, Young People & Skills Committee, said: “More and more young women and girls are at risk of being exploited within gang culture, so we very much welcome this funding. 

“It will allow our Young Woman’s Worker to work face to face or in groups with vulnerable girls and help protect them from sexual exploitation and violence at the hands of gang members.”

Drugs, county lines and social media

A large proportion of serious and violent crime in the city is linked to the drug trade and county lines activity, with social media platforms, like Snapchat, being used across all aspects of drug supply in Sussex.

We’re also tackling gang culture as part of the Sussex Violence Reduction Partnership (VRP) which brings together data and expertise from Sussex Police, local authorities, the NHS including hospitals, public health, criminal justice and community organisations.  

The VRP identifies and tackles the root causes of serious violent crime in Sussex to protect young people and make our communities safer.