As young people head back to the classroom after the summer break they’re being reminded to look out for signs of grooming and sexual exploitation among their friends.
For many, they may be meeting up with friends they’ve not seen in a while, so it’s a prime time to notice changes in behaviour.
The See Me, Hear Me campaign from West Midlands councils and West Midlands Police highlights key warning signs to help young people identify concerns and get help.
These include having friends who are older, persistently going missing, secretive relationships with unknown adults, truancy from school, chronic fatigue, constant calls on a mobile phone and the possession of money or new things.
CSE can happen to anyone, regardless of their gender, social or ethnic background.
It is child abuse and involves perpetrators grooming their victims in various ways, such as in person, via mobiles or online, to gain their trust before emotionally and sexually abusing them.
It can take place in many forms, whether through a seemingly consensual relationship, or a young person being forced to have sex in return for some kind of payment, such as drugs, money, gifts or even protection and affection.
Information about the warning signs is available at the campaign website www.seeme-hearme.org.uk . This is a one-stop shop for information about CSE and how to spot the warning signs, along with help and advice for young people, parents and carers, professionals and schools.
Councillor Ian Cooper, Dudley Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, said:
“Young people have been heading back to school after the summer holidays and meeting up with friends they’ve not seen in a while, so it’s a prime time to notice changes.
“We want all of them to be aware of the signs of CSE so they can recognise any concerns among their friends and get help.
“I would urge all young people, and their parents to visit our campaign website www.seeme-hearme.org.uk to find out more and see what they can do to help protect our children and young people.
“Everyone has their part to play in protecting our children and young from this horrific abuse.”
Anyone who is concerned about the safety of a young person should call West Midlands Police on 101, speak in confidence to Barnardo’s on 0121 359 5333 or in an emergency call 999.
Childline also has counsellors available online at www.childline.org.uk
People can find out more information about child sexual exploitation by visiting www.seeme-hearme.org.uk