Police launch second phase of Child Sexual Exploitation awareness campaign

The second phase of Sussex Police's Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) awareness campaign has been launched today (Monday February 15).

Sussex Police's Child Sexual Exploitation campaign posters
Sussex Police's Child Sexual Exploitation campaign posters

The county-wide campaign began last month and is targeting people and organisations to give them the tools to help safeguard children who may be victims or at risk of CSE.

CSE is child abuse in which the victim is given something (food, money, drugs, alcohol or gifts) in exchange for sexual activity with the abuser. The crime can affect any child; boys or girls, anytime, anywhere, regardless of their social or ethnic background.

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An assessment carried out by the force during 2015 found that more than 130 children under 18 in Sussex were at risk of systematic sexual exploitation by older youngsters or men.

The data was drawn from police records of missing and found children, information from partner agencies about children they were supporting owing to safeguarding concerns, and specific police operations in which there were suggestions that children may have been exploited.

Police stress that not all of the children referred to in the survey were actually victims at that time.

‘Child Sexual Exploitation is never the child’s fault’, is a key message in the second phase of the campaign, police have said.

It will focus on informing and speaking to children aged between 12 and 18 about what Child Sexual Exploitation could be.

Sussex Police and partners want all children regardless of gender, sexual orientation, background or ethnicity to be equipped with the knowledge that should a relationship online or in the real world appear to be not quite what it seems, they know what to do and where to get guidance.

Detective Superintendent Jason Tingley, who is spearheading the campaign, said: “CSE can be seen as a hidden crime. A child may not see themselves as a victim of CSE, so may not come forward and tell someone.

“We want to ensure that those children, their friends, siblings and family members understand the dangers of child sexual exploitation and the way that grooming can happen.

“Professionals who regularly work with children can help identify the warning signs of CSE and can support a child in the best way.

“Safeguarding children both online and in the real world is the biggest child protection challenge of the 21st Century.

“We have to evolve and adapt the way that we work together as professionals, communicate with and support children who are vulnerable and at risk of grooming and sexual exploitation.”

The second phase will also focuses on professionals whose job means they come into contact with children on a regular basis.

Professionals such as teachers, youth-workers and medical staff will be targeted by officers with the aim of giving them the information to help stop the abuse before it happens.

The campaign will use social media channels, including Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, signposting to videos and web pages, with advice and details on how to contact sources of advice.

The campaign also includes adverts in trains, funded by the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner Katy Bourne, and billboards near schools, together with posters in GP surgeries, sexual health clinics and hospital A&E as well as in local schools and colleges.

Mrs Bourne said; “Child sexual exploitation may be complex but it has devastating consequences.

“In order to keep our children safe we need a multi-agency, intelligence-led approach which is why I funded the CSE analyst post last year.

“This dedicated role is working directly with partners to build a ‘rich picture’ of intelligence and identify where the greatest and most immediate risks might lie.

“The analyst’s work is vital in helping police target their resources in the right areas where disruption and prevention is most needed. For example, the analyst’s research has shown that many children at risk of CSE will use trains to travel and that is why I have funded the awareness posters that will be appearing on the inside of trains across the south east for the next two weeks.”

Across Sussex, councils, charities and agencies are supporting the police and are engaging in many additional activities.

East Sussex County Council is delivering ten performances of the video ‘Chelsea’s Choice’ to schools across Eastbourne from Monday February 29.

Eastbourne Borough Council is funding the project along with the independent East Sussex Local Safeguarding Childrens Board and around 1200 children and young people will see the video, along with 200 professionals.

Sussex Police is also working with the independent Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCB) to deliver an understanding of how everyone has a part to play in helping to #StopCSE.

Lifecentre, a Sussex based UK charity which supports survivors of rape and sexual abuse, is offering ongoing specialist counselling and play therapy across West Sussex for any child who has suffered Child Sexual Abuse. Last year Lifecentre had 114 referrals from under 18-year-olds.

West Sussex County Council (WSCC) has also made a promise to young people, signed up to by the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner, and the West Sussex Local Safeguarding Children’s Board.

The promise sets out the support and respect young people can expect in the county, and has been shared with a wide range of stakeholders including District and Borough Councils, and MPs.

Other work to tackle CSE in West Sussex includes support for the police campaign with library posters, delivery of focused training to professionals to spot the signs and use new screening tools, and the launch of a range of blogs and materials about healthy relationships aimed at young people.

In West Sussex more than 60 performances of ‘Chelsea’s Choice’ have been funded by WSCC at secondary schools, alternative provision colleges, children’s homes and independent schools.

Warning signs of child sexual exploitation include;

• Has the young person received unexplained gifts or money?

• Do they use their mobile phone secretively?

• Do they have significantly older friends?

• Have they been picked up from home or school by someone you don’t know?

• Are they associating with other young people who are already known to be vulnerable or involved in exploitation?

• Have they started playing truant from school or regularly going missing from home?

• Have they suffered from a sexually-transmitted infection?

• Are they self-harming?

• Has their appearance changed?

This further description of CSE also explains what people should look out for;

• Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is a form of child abuse where the victim is given something - food, money, drugs, alcohol, gifts, in exchange for sexual activity with the abuser.

• Child Sexual Exploitation is a crime that can affect any child, anytime, anywhere- regardless of their social or ethnic background

• It involves grooming and using their power to sexually abuse them. This ‘power’ manifests itself in different way - through ‘romance’ of ‘friendship’. As the exploitation escalates, terrifying threats and violence may be used to control children and keep them compliant.

• Offenders target vulnerable young people and use their power - physical, financial and emotional over the child to sexually abuse them.

• CSE is child abuse and although they may not realise it, it puts the young person at huge risk of damage to their physical, emotional and psychological health.

• CSE is a growing issue across the UK and in Sussex.

• CSE is perpetrated against boys and girls irrespective of background, but while there is no stereotypical victim of exploitation, there are common warning signs in children’s behaviour that may indicate that something is wrong.

• A common feature of CSE is that the child or young person does not recognise the coercive nature of the relationship and does not see them selves as a victim of exploitation and therefore are unlikely to report the abuse to the police.

• The power of the grooming process

• Many young people who are being abused believe they are in a consensual relationship.

• There is not one type of victim or offender of CSE. CSE can take many forms in many settings. This can make it challenging when looking for warning signs (link in with warning signs and common myths)

• You can help protect young people against CSE

• If you suspect CSE, contact Sussex Police, Social Services or report anonymously via the independent charity Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 (www.crimestoppers-uk.org)

• If something doesn’t look or feel right report it.

• Your organisation has a role in identifying and disrupting child sexual exploitation.

• Not just young women are subject of CSE.

• If a young person is being manipulated or forced into take part in sexual activity it is CSE, even if it takes place online. (look to make more of online CSE)

• You do not have to receive anything in return to be a victim of CSE.

For more advice and support about child sexual exploitation abuse visit www.sussex.police.uk/cse or call 101 or 01273 470101.

If you want to report sexual exploitation or any crime, contact Sussex Police on [email protected],pnn.police.uk or call 101. You can arrange to talk in confidence to experienced detectives who will take your concerns seriously, will investigate, and will try to help you achieve justice wherever possible. They can also put you in contact with other services who can help.

If you don’t want to talk to the police, talk to someone. SafeSpace Sussex provides a directory of local support services at http://www.safespacesussex.org.uk/

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