With the festive season upon us, people are reminded to be aware of a key warning sign that could indicate child sexual exploitation (CSE).
The regional see me, hear me partnership is highlighting signs of this hidden crime in the run up to Christmas to help people identify concerns and get help.
If you’re seeing a child or young person receiving unexplained money or gifts this Christmas, it could be an indication something is wrong.
The partnership will again be featuring its hard-hitting animation ‘the warning signs were there.’ This follows the story of a young girl being groomed by an abuser with gifts, alcohol and affection and illustrates how those around her, her teacher, her friend and her dad, notice changes in her behaviour.
The animation will go out via Facebook and Twitter as a 30 second clip from the dad’s perspective, with the full version available on the campaign website www.seeme-hearme.org.uk
Councillor Anne Millward, cabinet member for children’s service at Dudley Council, said:
“During the festive season we know young people will have new things and often exchange gifts with each other. However, it’s so important for parents and carers to look out for anything unusual and know where or who new things are coming from.
“Unexplained gifts, along with other unusual behaviour, such as mood swings, skipping school, being secretive and staying out late are all signs which should not be ignored.
“CSE can affect both girls and boys and being aware of the warning signs, and acting on them early, can help prevent abuse happening or escalating.
“We all have our part to play in protecting our children and young people from this horrific abuse and I would urge people to check out our website www.seeme-hearme.org.uk to watch the film in full.”
www.seeme-hearme.org.uk contains a wealth of information about CSE and the warning signs to look out for, as well as signposting people to help and support.
CSE can happen to anyone, regardless of their gender, culture or 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.
Anyone who is concerned about the safety of a young person should call West Midlands Police on 101, speak in confidence to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or in an emergency call 999.
Childline also have 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
Notes to editors
The See Me, Hear Me campaign was launched in June 2014 by Dudley, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Walsall, Coventry, Birmingham and Solihull councils, along with West Midlands Police, to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation.