Organisations from across Avon and Somerset involved in the protection of children are backing National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day in a bid to further raise awareness of child sexual exploitation (CSE).
Avon and Somerset Police and Police and Crime Commissioner, together with agencies from Local Safeguarding Children Boards from across the force area, have signed up to the campaign which highlights the message to think, spot and speak out against abuse.
The National Awareness Day was launched last year by the NWG Network, a charity dedicated to helping combat child sexual exploitation and who provide information and support to voluntary and statutory services.
Avon and Somerset’s Police and Crime Commissioner Sue Mountstevens said: “Partnership working is fundamental when protecting the most vulnerable members of our communities. Victims of CSE are extremely vulnerable and often don’t understand they have been exploited. Preventing their exploitation and responding quickly and effectively to stop exploitation will improve outcomes for vulnerable children.
“I would encourage everyone to think, spot and speak out against abuse and adopt a zero tolerance to adults developing inappropriate relationships with children. CSE is an issue which can only be tackled together and with different agencies working even more closely in partnership can we make a real difference.”
Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is when a child is forced or manipulated into sexual activity in return for affection, gifts, money, drugs or alcohol. It can happen to any child, from any community. Boys, as well as girls, can be targeted for sexual exploitation.
CSE can be carried out by individuals, by street gangs or by groups. It can be motivated by money or by sexual gratification. But in all cases, there is an imbalance of power - vulnerable children are controlled and abused by adults or by other children.
Force lead for Child Sexual Exploitation DCI Simon Crisp said: “Spotting the signs is vital, as many who are being abused do not see themselves as victims. Others can be too scared to come forward because of the power their abusers exert over them.
“Protecting children and young people from sexual exploitation is a top priority for the force and we are fully committed to working with our partners to identify victims and bring offenders to justice.
“Today’s awareness day asks everyone to pledge their support, learn the signs of sexual exploitation and act if you have concerns. Because only by working together and sharing information can we help inform, educate and prevent this form of child sexual abuse.”
More than half of exploitation takes place online, with abusers often targeting children and young people for exploitation through social media platforms, online gaming and internet chat forums.
To help promote awareness of online safety, police are running a Facebook advert campaign linking to advice online for parents and professionals who work with young people.
Advice is available via the force website www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/cse
, where information about the signs of CSE can also be found, alongside links to help and support.
If you suspect a child or young person may be at risk, or have any information relating to child sexual exploitation, please contact police on 101 or online via a secure reporting form www.avonandsomerset.police.uk/contact
If you know or suspect a child or young person is in immediate danger, you should dial 999 straight away.
Posted on Friday 18th March 2016