People across the UK are today being urged to unite in making a personal pledge to help tackle child sexual exploitation (Monday 18th March).
National CSE Awareness Day – organised by the charity NWG Network – aims to encourage everyone to think, spot and speak out against abuse, and is being supported by councils and organisations across the West Midlands, as well as West Midlands Police.
People are asked to write a personal pledge on their hands and then post a photo of it on social media using #HelpingHands and #CSEDay19.
The pledge can be anything, from speaking out, to educating others.
It aims to increase people’s understanding of child sexual exploitation and how to spot the warning signs in a child or young person’s behaviour that may indicate something is wrong.
B31 Voices recognises that CSE is the responsibility of all of us. We pledge to help our communities tackle the abuse by helping to raise awareness and understanding of the issue.
SEE the BIG picture
CSE is when a child or young person is manipulated, coerced or forced into sexual activity – in person or via technology eg mobile phones and the internet – in return for some kind of payment. This could be material things, such as drugs, money and gifts, but could also be simply an offer of affection or protection.
It can happen to girls AND boys and abusers can be men, women or even other young people.
CSE is a hidden crime which can take place in all kinds of communities to all kinds of children, regardless of age, gender, religion, race or home situation.
KNOW the signs
The warning signs of CSE may include:
- having friends who are older
- a change in physical appearance, poor self image, weight changes
- persistently ‘running away’ or staying out for long periods
- secretive relationships with unknown adults
- truancy from school
- becoming withdrawn and secretive
- chronic fatigue
- constant phone communications
- possession of money or new items
- self harm, depression or other mental health issues
- drug or alcohol abuse
- volatile, disruptive – even criminal – behaviour
Of course, these signs are not exclusive to victims of CSE, but if you know a young person exhibiting these signs, try to give them time to talk or give them information for confidential services they could speak to, such as Childline.
There are many reasons why a young person may be worried to speak about what’s happening to them or a friend.
- The grooming and manipulation they have been subjected to may mean that they don’t realise they are a victim
- Abuser/s often make threats of physical harm or violence
- They may be worried that no-one will believe them or not know how to start a conversation about it
- The young person may feel a sense of guilt or shame that they themselves are somehow responsible. Abusers may use this shame to further manipulate their victims.
It’s crucial that young people feel they have someone they trust to talk to, to enable them to break the silence about what is happening to them or a friend.
Could you be that person for young people you know?
SPEAK out and REPORT
You could help be the voice for a young person who feels they can’t speak out, or encourage and support them to make contact with someone who can help.
If you, or someone you know, is a victim of CSE, please consider calling the police. West Midlands Police can be contacted by phoning 101 OR you can speak to them on Live Chat at www.west-midlands.police.uk (8am – midnight) or to call 101 any time.
IN AN EMERGENCY CALL 999
You can contact Crimestoppers anonymously with information by calling 0800 555 111 or you can report directly on the Crimestoppers website.
• see me, hear me
The see me, hear me campaign is a joint effort between Dudley, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Walsall, Sandwell, Solihull and Coventry councils along with West Midlands Police and partner organisations – all working together to raise the profile of CSE in the region.
The campaign website has lots of useful information about CSE and how to get support and report it.
Childline have counsellors available on their website or you can call free of charge on 0800 1111 – the number won’t show up on your phone bill.
“It is NOT OK for someone to expect you or your friends to do things you don’t want to do sexually. Listen to your instinct; if it doesn’t feel right
You can call or text ‘stop CSE’ on 116000 – it’s free, anonymous and available 24 hours a day, every day.
Or visit the FACE #SaySomething website
Make a pledge of your own
Could you make a pledge of your own to help combat CSE?
If you’re a young person concerned a friend may be affected by CSE, pledge to speak to someone you trust, in confidence, and ask for help?
Pledge to spend some time looking at resources on the links above and talk to your children about CSE?
Nick Page, chief executive of Solihull Council and regional CSE lead, said:“This national day provides an opportunity for us to further increase awareness of CSE and how people can spot the warning signs.
“Please get involved. Make a personal pledge, post a photo on social media and then act on what you’ve decided to do.
“We all have our part to play in keeping our children and young people safe and being aware of the warning signs and acting on them early can prevent abuse happening or escalating.“