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Hard hitting campaign to tackle child sexual exploitation launches across Avon and Somerset

School.PC.

Police officer with young people

A campaign to tackle sexting and online sexual activity amongst young people launches today (Friday July 26) across Avon and Somerset.

‘Exposed, Exploited’ highlights the issue of sexting on phones and online via sites such as Facebook, Twitter and many others. It’s aimed at young people who’ve sent explicit texts, images and videos to each other, and lists the consequences of getting naked via digital media.

In conjunction with the online warnings, radio adverts on Kiss FM highlight the dangers of taking explicit or provocative images and sending them on to the others. It reminds young people that they’ve gone digital once they hit the send button and it’s likely to remain online or on mates phones forever.

While young people may not see it as an issue that might continue to haunt them for many years to come, it drills home the dangers of it turning into something more sinister should a sex offender or someone who wants to bring them to harm gets hold of their self-shot.

It also addresses the issue of being paid or given gifts to engage in sex or sexual activity, which is what we call exploitation or grooming.

Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “In a digital age I think it is easy for young people to not always see the seriousness of sexting or of posting images on-line or on their mobile phones.

“I would urge everyone to think twice before engaging into this type of sexual activity. You don’t know where your photo or messages could end up. It could be seen by your friends and family or worse still someone who might be dangerous and have bad intentions. If you have been a victim of this type of activity remember it’s not your fault.

“This is a priority of mine and in September I will be speaking to young people at Bristol City College about their experiences, their views on this and finding out what more the police, teachers, the council and others organisations can do to help and protect them.”

Superintendent Geoff Wessell, Head of Public Protection Unit (PPU) said: “Young people think it’s the norm to send pictures or videos of themselves to others naked or in their underwear. It can cover a multitude of sins from fairly innocent sexual experimentation between peers and grooming from others with more sinister motives, both are extremely damaging.

“This kind of sexual activity leaves young people very vulnerable. Once it’s on a phone or online it’s digital and it can remain there forever. The impact of that can be huge as these days, your parent’s teachers, friends, and even employers might search the internet to see what you’ve been up to. It can have a huge impact for many years to come.”

Superintendent Wessell added: “The aim of this campaign is to stop young people exposing themselves online and to stop them being exploited by people who want them to do this for their own sexual gratification. It’s dangerous and in the worst cases you could end up being the victim of a very serious crime.”

In Bristol this campaign has been fully supported by the City Council. Cllr Brenda Massey, Bristol City Council Assistant Mayor for Children, Young People and Education added:

“It’s so important to stay safe online and on your phone.  Sad as it may be there are predatory people targeting youngsters who go to great lengths to fool unsuspecting young people.  Even if you know the recipient personally, once something’s sent it is permanent and it only takes a mistake or argument to risk it going public.

“In Bristol the council, police and other organisations are working together to tackle this problem.  Our advice is quite simple – don’t send anything to anyone which you wouldn’t want to be seen in public.”

The campaign has been funded by Avon and Somerset Police, Avon and Somerset Police and Crime Commissioner and Bristol City Council and will run over the school summer holidays across the whole of Avon and Somerset.

If you have been a victim or are concerned about others you can call the police on 101 or 999 in an emergency or report the matter at www.ceop.police.uk

 

Posted on Friday 26th July 2013
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