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How the Pineapple Project is supporting young women in Dorset

As the 16 Days of Activism against Gender-based Violence continues, I’m handing over this newsletter to the founders of the Pineapple Project in Weymouth. This scheme aims to safeguard young women in Weymouth when they’re outside of their family homes.

I’m pleased to say that thanks to the latest round of Safer Streets Funding, the Weymouth-based project will expand to other areas in the Dorset Council area, including Portland, Swanage and Dorchester allowing the organisation to ensure young women and girls are supported and feel safe going out in the area they live.

Here’s Rachel Janaway, targeted youth worker at Dorset Council, and Sarah Whilton, service manager at Dorset Council, to tell you more about the Pineapple Project:

“The heart of the Pineapple Project revolves around the concept of hidden girls. We know from listening to young women that incidences of sexual assault, exploitation and peer-on-peer abuse take place, but are not always reported, leaving these young women’s experiences hidden.

To try and combat that, through the Pineapple Project we’re using the principles of community guardianship to provide a safe haven for young women when things haven’t gone to plan. This ranges from youngsters being able to step into a local shop so they can charge a phone or somewhere which allows them to take a few minutes of shelter in an approved business putting some distance between them and the person who could be bothering them.

Our mantra is that all young women should feel safe in their communities and be given the opportunity to understand their right to safety and be able to seek support when it is needed. The origins of this project really come back to the slogan that it takes a village to raise a child. We want the Pineapple Project to empower young women, and the community to be involved in what’s happening out there. We want the community to own this. So often we don’t know about exploitation until after it’s happened, and we need to change that. We want this project to help get in there before this stage and change it before it’s too late.

As an organisation, we provide training and a toolkit for the people who take part. This includes how to recognise signs which could mean a young woman is at risk of harm and knowing how best to offer help. We DBS check everyone involved, and they also have access to a professional duty line. Essentially, we’re training people to be active bystanders. This is how we differ from a scheme like Ask for Angela or Ask for Ani. We want people in the community to be proactive and start seeing young women through a safeguarding lens.

There is no blueprint for this project. We’re constantly adapting, learning as we go and ensuring that the safe space is just that, by having a community guardian who’s a safe person. Now, thanks to the recent funding from Safer Streets, this will enable us to get the appropriate adults into the scheme and develop this further. We always say that innovation is not linear. This type of project is complex because of the issues involved but we’re committed to making a change.   

We’d love for people who want to join us to already be in the community, talking and working with young people. They’re the ones who are hearing the conversations and listening to what’s happening already. We’d also love to get young women involved and build that trust and support between them, create peer mentors and champions in schools.

Our community guardians are the eyes and ears of their local area. We want them to challenge, observe and protect our young women whenever they need it. The support they give could range from offering a safe haven, challenging inappropriate behaviour, signposting young women to appropriate services, providing a distraction or diversion and reporting safeguarding concerns or a crime.

Ultimately, the Pineapple Project centres around listening to the voices of young women and aims to protect them from harm by showing there are responsible people who care. We want to empower young women to feel in control of the support available to them.”

Thank you to Rachel and Sarah for their ongoing hard work, and I look forward to seeing how the Pineapple Project continues to develop in Dorset. Protecting women and girls forms a key part of my Police and Crime Plan to fight violent crime and high harm. I am dedicated to continue working with police and external partners to counter violence against women and girls by making our public spaces safer. Through working with organisations like the Pineapple Project, we can help make Dorset the safest county.

Get in touch with the Pineapple Project here

David Sidwick

Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner

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