A CAMPAIGN to highlight the potential danger signs of child sexual exploitation (CSE) has been launched by West Sussex County Council today (Monday, March 16).
Everyone is being asked to play a role in trying to stamp out CSE with the message - ‘say something if you see something’.
The plea coincides with Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day, which begins on Wednesday (March 18).
The national event has been organised to encourage everyone to think, spot and speak out about abuse and adopt zero tolerance towards adults developing inappropriate relationships with children.
CSE is a form of abuse which involves the manipulation or coercion of young people under the age of 18 into sexual activity. It can involve swapping sexual favours for drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and other presents.
Sometimes it may involve having sex for money with several adults.
Peter Evans, county council cabinet member for children – start of life, said: “A young person may feel they must have sex because an adult gives them something or because they feel threatened or frightened.
“Often a young person may want to have sex because they think the person is their boyfriend or girlfriend. They may not see that they are being used or manipulated.
“The sad truth is that any child anywhere can be sexually exploited regardless of culture, ethnicity, religion or gender.
“It’s everyone’s business to raise awareness of this and make sure everything possible is done to stop it happening.”
“Often a young person may want to have sex because they think the person is their boyfriend or girlfriend. They may not see that they are being used or manipulated.”Peter Evans, county council cabinet member for children – start of life
Some of the signs to look out for in young people could be:
• Staying out overnight.
• Being missing from home or skipping school.
• Being given money, clothes or jewellery by a grown-up outside the family.
• Having an older boyfriend or girlfriend.
• Taking drugs or drinking alcohol.
• Losing contact with family and friends their own age.
• Having low self-esteem.
• Being secretive about where they’re going.
• Chatting to people online they have never met.
Peter said: “Young people shouldn’t feel as if they have done anything wrong and people shouldn’t be afraid to speak about this. We are determined to stop this happening, but we need everyone’s support to do this.”
More information can be found on the West Sussex Safeguarding Children’s Board website here.
People can download leaflets with advice for young people and parents on the signs to look out for and what to do if you think you or someone you know is being sexually exploited.
To report concerns people can call the county council’s children’s access point (CAP) on 01403 229900 (9am-5pm Monday–Friday) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
This is a secure email system which can only be accessed by professionals.
People can contact the Police on 101 (or 999 in an emergency). Residents can also contact Childline on 0800 11 11 or the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.