Liverpool City Council has joined forces with professionals from health, education and Merseyside Police to lend its support to National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day.
‘Listen to My Story’, a joint media and marketing campaign designed to raise awareness of the issue among young people, parents and grandparents and members of the public is being launched.
The campaign, which has been funded by Merseyside’s Police Commissioner, Jane Kennedy, aims to help victims find the right kind of support and advice if they are suffering as a result of child sexual exploitation (CSE), or have suffered abuse in the past.
It also provides advice to parents to help them spot the signs that may signal their child is being groomed or exploited
Councillor Jane Corbett, Liverpool City Council’s Cabinet Member for Children’s Services, said: “It is vital that we all know what the signs of CSE are, which is why we are launching this really important campaign. It could be that you are a young person and either you or one of your friends is being taken advantage of. Or you may be the relative or friend of a young person and you recognise some of the signs. Whatever your situation, our message is that we want to know about it, that you will be listened to and that your concerns will be taken seriously.”
Assistant Chief Constable Andy Ward has called for everyone to take a few minutes to learn more about CSE and in doing so, help keep our young people safe.
ACC Ward said: “Child sexual exploitation is a terrible crime that can have a devastating impact on the young people right the way through their lives. Worryingly it can take a victim seven years to tell someone what has happened to them, either because they are ashamed, have no-one they can trust to believe them, or no-one actually asks in the first place.
“We can’t let young people who are being exploited suffer in silence. To carry this burden with you for a very long time can have a lasting and traumatic affect and leaves the perpetrator, or perpetrators, free to abuse others.
“This cycle has to be stopped and it is everyone’s responsibility to do their bit to stop it. Victims cannot and should not be expected to do this alone and we should not underestimate how difficult it is for someone who is being or has been abused to come forward.”
He added: “We all need to become better at spotting the signs that our young people may be at risk in the first place and know what to do if we think they are.
“CSE can happen to anyone from any walk of life and we all need to open our eyes to it. It cuts across all cultural, ethnic, and social backgrounds and does not confine itself to certain communities and areas of the country.
“It remains a hidden and under-reported crime carried out by predatory and manipulative people who trick and coerce victims to the extent that the victim may not always realise they are being abused. More and more cases are coming to light as victims become confident that the police and other services will listen to their story and will ensure they get help.
“But we need to do more to stop CSE in its tracks in the first place and this campaign will better equip every adult out there who puts a child’s safety and well-being first to spot the warning signs and take decisive action.”
Merseyside’s Deputy Police Commissioner Cllr Ann O’Byrne said: “Child sexual exploitation destroys the lives of victims and their families and the impact can be felt across whole neighbourhoods.
“Today is about sending out a united message that we will not tolerate child sexual exploitation in our communities.
“Through Listen To My Story we want to raise awareness, among young people themselves, their parents and guardians and also the wider community. We all have a part to play in protecting our young people and this campaign is designed to increase everyone’s understanding of CSE, ensuring we are all alert to the warning signs and know what to do if we do fear a young person may be at risk.
“We also want to give young people the confidence to speak out and tell their story, knowing they will be listened to, believed and understood. We need to help them spot the tell-tale danger signs and recognise how to protect themselves both in the real world and in the virtual world.
“The Commissioner has made tackling CSE one of her policing priorities and to support this vital campaign, she has also committed £120,000 to fund a new, specialist CSE support service.
“This dedicated service, which will start work on April 1st, will provide a complete package of care, from protection right through to intensive counselling. This service will make sure more young people are protected and, for those who have been brave enough to come forward, it will ensure they get the best possible care and support.
“Over the coming months, the Commissioner and I will also be calling for CSE to be made a specific crime. We want perpetrators to know there is no hiding place and send out a message that those who target our young people for their own perverse sexual gratification will face justice.
“National CSE awareness day is an opportunity for people from all walks of life and communities to play their part in putting a stop to CSE, but it is not just about oneday. We all need to make a stand every day.”
There are no stereotypical victims of CSE, male and females can be a victim of CSE, but the below warning signs are indications that a child may be being exploited:
• Regularly missing from home or school and staying out all night
• Change in behaviour – becoming aggressive and disruptive or quiet and withdrawn
• Unexplained gifts or new possessions such as clothes, jewellery, mobile phones or money that can’t be accounted for
• Increase in mobile phone use or secretive use
• A significantly older ‘boyfriend’ or ‘friend’ or lots of new friends
• Spending excessive amounts of time online or on their mobile and becoming increasingly secretive about this activity
• Sudden involvement in criminal behaviour or increased offending
• Sexual health problems