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Project update: Helping Ourselves Prevent Exploitation (HOPE)

Helping Ourselves Prevent Exploitation” (HOPE), an EU funded project on raising awareness and prevention of sexual exploitation of children and young women with disabilities, started its second year. In this article you can find some more information on the state of play in Bulgaria. 

Mate crime is Hate crime
What makes a girl prostituting?
– “… poverty, misery.”
– “… the girl is head over heels in love. … this is called … black love . “
 
The girl is so much in love, that she will do whatever the boy tells her to do …”
– “Let us confess, who we want to be?”
– “I have not thought about that yet.”
– “A boxer.”
– “After 10th class, having done my driving license, I want to work abroad.”
– “A pimp.”
– “A pimp.”
– “A pimp.”
– “My brother is a pimp and I will become like my brother. I will not do any misery to the girls …”

How many boys from the neighbourhood dream of becoming a pimp?
- “Each boy in the neighbourhood wants to become a pimp.”
- “Nine out of ten.”
- “80 out of 100.”
 
These are answers, given by nine 12- to 16-years old Roma-Bulgarian boys, reached by Social Association St. Andrew and “Co-Participation” Association within their Outreach/Mobile Social Work with marginalized Roma-communities in the district of Varna (Bulgaria).

There last year the “Helping Ourselves Prevent Exploitation” (HOPE) initiative against sexual exploitation of women and children has started, whose trainings and follow-up individual and group work will reach out to 112 young people and 64 specialists. The initiative is realized in partnership with the coordinating British Institute of Learning Disabilities (BILD) and EASPD, co-funded by the Daphne programme of the European Union (Rights, Equality and Citizenship Programme).

Sexual exploitation is when someone uses their power to exploit someone - it might be in return for money, drugs and drink or somewhere to stay for the night. Grooming is, when someone tricks someone into thinking they are special or in a relationship with the aim to sexually exploit them in the future. They often gain trust through giving presents, emotional support or food. This type of exploiters or pimps are not rude, violent or aggressive, nor do they steal things. They pretend to be nice (“Lover boys”) - and a friend.

If a person pretends to be a friend so that they can take advantage of someone is called Mate crime and can result in sexual and other exploitation. Mate crimes are hate crimes and should be reported to the police.

Whilst on one hand having a good sex life or sexual education during teenage within many families is taboo, on the other hand many families are tolerating sexual exploitation and the provision of paid sexual services. Family relationships often include pimping and offering sex as a way of family business. This is why in our HOPE-trainings among others we combined some elements of the “Ring of Safety” (Dave Hingsburger) (understanding your rights; being confident; knowing what “private” means; being able to say “no”; having someone who really listens to you) with prevention/education on “ghetto”-specific risks, such as human trafficking (sexual exploitation, labour exploitation, child labour market, baby-selling and trafficking for adoption, organ trafficking) or early marriages (“child-marriages”), early parenthood (“child-parenthood”) and early school leaving.
 

Monika Heitmann, Dr. Mariyana Mincheva-Rizova, Dr. Iliyan Rizov, HOPE-workers,
Social Association “St. Andrew”, Bulgaria