Devon and Cornwall Police and partner agencies are today launching a campaign to raise awareness of the signs of child sexual exploitation. The initiative coincides with Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day on 18 March led by national charity National Working Group (NWG). The aim is to ensure people are aware of the signs of child sexual exploitation.
Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a type of child abuse. It puts a young person at huge risk of damage to their physical, emotional and psychological health.
CSE involves young people and children being ‘groomed’ and sexually exploited. It can take many forms, such as through an apparently ‘consensual’ relationship with an older person or a young person having sex in return for attention, gifts, cigarettes or alcohol.
Many young people who are being exploited do not realise they are at risk and will not ask for help. Some may see themselves as willing participants in such abuse, not realising that what is happening to them is illegal.
The aim of the campaign is to encourage everyone to know the signs of exploitation and, where necessary, to report information to police.
Further information about CSE, spotting the signs and how to get help can be found at the joint agency web page: http://www.dc.police.uk/cseawareness.
For help young people can call or text: 116000 – a free and anonymous service or visit www.faceuptoit.org – a website written for and by young people.
In an emergency, always call 999.
Detective Inspector, David Ley, of Devon and Cornwall Police said, “We hope this campaign will raise awareness among the public about the signs of child sexual exploitation. The public can really help us detect and prevent crime by knowing the signs of exploitation and reporting any concerns they have.
“It’s not just parents, teachers and carers who can help spot the signs of CSE. Anyone working in a service industry, such as taxi drivers and hotel workers, shopkeepers may be able to spot vulnerable young people who may be at risk of exploitation or in an exploitative relationship.
“Young people who want help or advice about a situation they or their friends might be in can call or text for free and anonymously 116000.”
Police and Crime Commissioner, Alison Hernandez added, “Child sexual exploitation can affect any child, any time and often without warning. It is important to be able to spot the signs which could indicate that something is wrong.
“I would encourage everyone to learn these and if you have any concerns that a child may be at risk to report it immediately.
“There are various agencies, both local and national, that can help, including police, Barnardo’s, NWG, NSPCC and local safeguarding boards.
“As part of the Police and Crime Plan, I am committed to protecting the vulnerable and those at risk of abuse. I want children to know that we care, we will help and we can support them.
Devon and Cornwall Police is working to inform and educate people around this form of child abuse and encourages victims to come forward and report abuse.”
Sarah Necke, Child Sexual Exploitation Lead for Safer Cornwall, added, “Cornwall is committed to protecting our children against harm.
“We know how child sexual exploitation can damage lives and are determined to provide the best response we possibly can. We work closely together and want the community to feel confident to share concerns and we want children and young people to know that we will listen.
“We all have a role to play – parents, carers, relatives, friends, neighbours, members of the public and professionals – the campaign aims to raise awareness and encourage people to report and we would always support that.”
Andy Bickley, Chair of the Plymouth Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB) said, “Tackling child sexual abuse and exploitation is a shared priority for organisations working with children and young people in Plymouth. We are absolutely committed to making sure there is a greater awareness of child sexual abuse and exploitation across all professionals in the city and we fully support awareness days like these.”
Frontline officers, support agencies, teachers and carers, taxi drivers and hotel workers have been trained to spot warning signs of grooming and exploitation, which include:
- Receiving unexplained gifts or money.
- Using their mobile phone excessively and/or secretively.
- Having significantly older friends.
- Being picked up from home or school by someone you don’t know.
- Associating with other young people who are already known to be vulnerable or involved in exploitation.
- Playing truant from school or regularly going missing from home.
- Suffering from a sexually-transmitted infection.
- Change in appearance.