The graphic novel – a comic dealing with mature themes – is entitled Web of Lies and tells the story of Kelly, a 14-year-old, who is flattered when an older boy starts to pay attention to her. But the relationship spirals out of control as her boyfriend reveals a dark, controlling side.
It has been created by members of Safe and Sound, a group of young people who meet at Trax Centre in Harrogate with North Yorkshire County Council youth worker Sara Atkins, North Yorkshire Prevention Service, and commissioned by the North Yorkshire Safeguarding Children Board as part of North Yorkshire’s child sexual exploitation multi-agency strategy.
The group discusses issues of personal safety and risky behaviour for young people in the Harrogate area. Combining their knowledge, research and consultation with other young people, they then design visual material that is not only appealing to young people but also has strong messages about staying safe.
Safe and Sound has previously been involved with an ITV Fixers campaign on the dangers of posting photographs on the internet and members have helped to organise two young people’s personal safety events in York.
They have also produced a previous graphic novel, It Started With A Kiss, which focused on domestic abuse and was used as a teaching tool in schools.
A spokesperson for the group said: “Exploitation in the early stages is difficult to recognise and young people need to notice the signs as early as possible, manage the risks and keep themselves safe. We were especially keen to help young people to understand the grooming process and the lengths that abusers will go to to gain full control of a young person.
“We wanted to create something different and more thought provoking; something that would help young people to recognise the signs of an exploitive relationship and the damaging and devastating effect that this can have, not just on themselves but also their friends and families.”
To write the story, the group undertook workshops, watched DVDs and spoke to a victim. The characters and the storyboard were designed, the story was split into scenes and these were photographed on location in Filey and Harrogate with the help of a photographer. One member of the group, Jack Lowerson, drew the more graphic scenes.
The novel will be used as part of personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) lessons in schools and the group is now working on a school resource to use with the novel. Students will be able to take a copy of the novel home to read and refer back to if necessary. The novel will also be used to support group work and one-to-one work with young people in statutory and voluntary settings across the county.
Members of the group are Beth Grace, Jack Lowerson, Alice McAvoy, Jamie Sockett, Owen Gregory, Sarah Embleton, Summer Godfrey, Elizabeth Myles, Chloe Newbould, Jack Hobson, Cian Yates-Lowe and Heather Schofield.