As the festive season approaches, people are asked to be aware of the key warning signs of child sexual exploitation (CSE).
The see me, hear me partnership led by West Midlands Police and councils across the West Midlands, including Dudley Council, is highlighting this hidden crime in the run up to Christmas to help people spot the signs and get help.
A child or young person receiving unexplained money or gifts this Christmas could be an indication something is wrong.
This, along with other unusual behaviour such as mood swings, skipping school, being secretive and staying out late, are all signs parents, carers, schools, professionals and young people should not ignore.
Nick Page, chief executive of Solihull Council and regional CSE lead,
“As the festive season gets underway we know young people will be exchanging gifts with each other and getting new things, but it’s important for parents and carers to look out for anything unusual as this could indicate they may be at risk of abuse.
“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 encourage everyone to visit our website 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