Meghan Lewis from the WiSE Project writes for PinkNews on how LGBT young people need greater support when it comes to making decisions about sex and relationships.

Coming out as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender means that children and young people with queer identities can face additional challenges to their straight and cisgender (non-trans) peers.

A report released by Metro earlier this year, found that 74% of LGBTQ young people have experienced name calling whilst 23% have experienced physical assault. In addition, nearly one in ten LGBTQ young people reported that they had to leave home for reasons relating to their gender identity or sexual orientation.

Whilst there is not one singular experience for LGBTQ young people growing up, these statistics do show a general pattern of LGBTQ young people experiencing elements of social isolation, violence and a lack of familial support.

The same report highlighted invisibility around LGBTQ sex and relationships in PSHE lessons with 89% of young people reporting that they learnt nothing about bisexuality and 94% reporting learning nothing about transgender identities at school.

These social challenges combined with a lack of relevant education about sex and relationships can leave LGBTQ young people isolated and increasingly vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

New research from Childline and Stonewall confirms that LGB young people (59%) are more likely to take risks online by sending and receiving sexually explicit material than straight young people (40%).

The survey also highlighted that LGB young people were more likely to send images to people that they hadn’t met before.

Lack of role models combined with lack of education around healthy sex and relationships may mean that LGBT young people are poorly equipped to make decisions around these areas.

The WiSE Project in Brighton & Hove has been working with LGBT young people from Allsorts Youth Project to tackle some of these issues. Looking at issues of consent, negotiation and communication as well as how power and control can limit free choice; we want to give young people the tools they need to navigate relationships.

As well as looking at healthy relationships, the young people involved have been designing LGBT specific campaign materials, as part of a wider campaign called WiSEUp, to raise awareness about sexual exploitation as well as what to do if young people are experiencing it.

Young people have designed innovative and interactive beermats which are designed to get people thinking and talking about different scenarios and what they would do if they were in those situations.

WiSEUp also addresses some of the stereotypes around sexual exploitation. There is an over-representation in the media of perpetrators being male, and of a certain age or a specific ethnicity.

Perpetuating these stereotypes can lead to under-identification of exploitative relationships. Perpetrators can be any age, gender or ethnicity. Young people can be targeted in life or on-line may believe that they are in a healthy relationship or friendship with the perpetrator.

The WiSEUp campaign, funded by Sussex Police Community Cashback scheme will also focus on training staff who work in night-time venues such as bars, clubs, hotels and saunas in how to identify exploitation and report appropriately.

Child Sexual Exploitation occurs often in the night time and as a city, those working within during the night need support from specialist services, such as the WiSE Project in order for the general public to be made aware of the issues surrounding unhealthy relationships in order to tackle sexual exploitation.

Meghan Lewis is a project worker wise WiSE