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New support network for gang abuse victims
A new support network for young victims of gang abuse is to be set up after funding for the initiative was confirmed. Home Office Minister Lynne Featherstone announced 13 new Young People's Advocates will offer support to those who have been affected by sexual violence or exploitation at the hands of such groups.
The aim of the advocates is to identify and promote effective measures to assist victims, while also providing a link between the services already available.
Ms Featherstone said the level of abuse relating to young women and gangs is shocking, adding such information has been kept out of the public eye for too long.
She added: "We are determined to take action to raise awareness, provide skilled and sensitive support to victims and work to prevent it happening in the first place."
Over the next three years, the initiative will be handed funding worth £1.2 million - an arrangement detailed in the report Ending Gang and Youth Violence.
Dr Funke Baffour, a Chartered Psychologist, said: "Girls who join gangs often report that it boosts their morale. However, one of the key reasons girls may join gangs is for protection - this can usually be from other girls, but quite often it is from sexual or physical abuse from a member of their family. Thus their gang friends often provide the sense of belonging that they yearn for.
"The unfortunate issue in many cases is that girls who hang out with gang members are more likely to be exposed to sexual assault. In that having to substantiate themselves through an initiation ritual can involve getting beaten up or having sexual encounters with gang members.
"It is therefore imperative that interventions for the prevention of the formation of girl gangs is put in place to enable young girls to seek appropriate ways of finding their sense of belonging."