This issue is everyone’s business: that’s the message from Somerset County Council as it backs National Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Awareness Day (18 March).
The Council, alongside the police and the Somerset Safeguarding Children’s Board, is supporting the day which encourages everyone to think about, spot and speak out against CSE.
CSE is a form of sexual abuse that involves the manipulation and/or coercion of young people under the age of 18 into sexual activity, usually in return for affection, gifts, money, drugs or alcohol. It not something that only happens in big cities, it happens in communities across the country including Somerset.
Working with the police and other key organisations, the County Council’s Children’s Services play an important role in preventing this kind of abuse and supporting the victims of it. But everyone has a part to play. From taxi drivers and B&B owners, to teachers and GPs; understanding the signs and knowing what to do when you see them is essential.
Tailored CSE awareness training is available for schools, businesses and professionals. An annual CSE summit brings together representatives from the relevant organisations to make sure they are working as closely together as they can.
“It’s easy for people to think that Child Sexual Exploitation is something that happens elsewhere and only in big cities”, said Councillor Frances Nicholson, Cabinet Member for Children and Families. “But that’s just not the case.
“Everyone can have a role to play in preventing and fighting CSE. This awareness day is a great opportunity to bring the issue into the spotlight and to encourage anyone who thinks they may have seen something that could indicate a child has been sexually exploited to speak to someone.”
CSE can be carried out by individuals or groups and happens online and in the real world. It can be motivated by money or by sexual gratification. In all cases vulnerable children are controlled and abused by adults or by other children.
There have been several high-profile court cases involving CSE, mostly in large metropolitan areas in other parts of the country. But CSE occurs everywhere.
People are encouraged to show their support for the awareness day by writing a personal pledge on their hand, photographing it and posting the image on social media with the hashtag #HelpingHands. Visit www.stop-cse.org to find out more about the National Awareness Day and the work going on to put a stop to CSE.
If you think a child is at risk of harm from any form of child abuse, including CSE, telephone 101, or 999 if you think that risk is immediate.
If you are worried about a child you can phone Somerset County Council’s call centre on 0300 123 2224. You can also talk to any professionals who work with children, or one of the many organisations that can provide information and support, such as the NSPCC and Barnados.