Posted: Wednesday 7th August 2019
I am originally from Cyprus and I served as a Sergeant in the Cyprus Armed Forces from 1991 to 2000 before moving to Bristol in 2003. People who know me say I am loud, a little crazy, and sociable and will do everything to fight for the wellbeing of children – young people I work with call me the crazy Greek lady!
I joined Avon and Somerset Constabulary in March 2003 on a temporary contract in the Child Protection Team. Since then, I have become a permanent member of staff working within the Child Protection arena.
Like a lot of jobs in this particular area of work, my role is very challenging, stressful and demanding. However, I am amazed every day by the stories from children I work with and the strength that they show. I feel very privileged to work for Avon and Somerset Police who allow me to make a difference to children’s lives.
I say to all the children I work with: “Be strong don’t let your past define your future”.
Thousands of children and young people, boys and girls, are being exploited both sexually and criminally in communities across the country and our force area is not an exception. We all have a role to play in stopping it and, most importantly, preventing it from happening in the first place.
Due to a number of cases of child exploitation, I am working hard to raise awareness of this awful crime among professionals, businesses, children, parents, schools and local communities. It’s important that we all know the warning signs and what steps we should take if we suspect a child is a victim.
Exploited children are often terrified and usually too scared to speak out for themselves and ask for help. We all can be their voice and with the relevant awareness you can all help to safeguard the children.
Child exploitation can happen to any child boy or girl from any social background, faith or ethnic group either in person or online. An abuser will gain a child's trust or control them through violence or blackmail before moving onto sexually abusing them and this can happen in a short period of time.
Online offences include deceiving the young person into sending indecent images of themselves, engaging in sexual chat online or sexual activity over a webcam. Once abusers have images, videos or records of conversations, they will use this content to blackmail a young person to take part in other sexual activity. They might also share the images and videos with others or circulate them online.
Gangs use sexual exploitation:
- to exert power and control
- for initiation
- to use sexual violence as a weapon.
Trafficking is also a threat to children and young people. Trafficking is where the young person is passed by perpetrators through networks, where they are forced or coerced into sexual activity with multiple people. This young person then might be used to recruit other young people to take part in so-called ‘sex’ parties where this offence can occur.
Gang and group exploitation
Young people in gangs or groups may be sexually exploited as part of gang initiation or as punishment. Young people may also be encouraged to recruit peers into the gang, exposing them to similar treatment of exploitation and making it difficult to identify perpetrators who control the gang.
Warning signs of child exploitation include:
- Unhealthy or inappropriate sexual behavior
- Being frightened of some people, places or situations
- Bring secretive
- Sharp changes in mood or character
- Having money or things they can't or won't explain
- Physical signs of abuse, like bruises or bleeding in their genital or anal area
- Alcohol or drug misuse
- Sexually transmitted infections.
- Having an older boyfriend or girlfriend
- Staying out late or overnight
- Having a new group of friends
- Missing from home or care, or stopping going to school or college
- Hanging out with older people, other vulnerable people or in antisocial groups
- Involved in a gang
- Involved in criminal activities like selling drugs or shoplifting
Potential effects of child exploitation
- Struggling with trust and be fearful of forming new relationships
- Isolated from family and friends
- Dropping out of education
- Become pregnant at a young age
- Mental health problems
- Suicide attempts
- Alcohol abuse and drug misuse
- Criminal record
Children and young people with the relevant awareness and education will be able to recognise abuse and feel able to disclose.
Please get in contact with me and I am happy to come to you to raise awareness for your organisation (voluntary or not), school (primary and secondary), club, business, faith groups, community groups.
You can all reach me by email me: CSEPrevention@avonandsomerset.police.uk or text me on 07889659854
For further information on CSE please visit our microsite https://www.thisisnotanexcuse.org/.