A national awareness day to highlight child exploitation (CE) and how to spot the signs is being supported by Cheshire Constabulary, Cheshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner and Cheshire’s Community Safety Partnership.
The day takes place on Thursday March 18 and aims to highlight the issues surrounding CE, raise awareness of the signs, and encourage everyone to speak out against exploitation.
Cheshire Constabulary has a fundamental duty to protect those who are most vulnerable within our communities. This national campaign provides the Constabulary along with partner agencies a crucial opportunity to raise awareness about the dangers, the signs and the indicators of abuse so that we can effectively safeguard children and bring to justice those who exploit them.
Child exploitation is a hidden crime and can happen in many different ways including online, where young people are persuaded or forced to take part in sexual activity and where organised crime groups, exert their power to involve young people in their criminal activity.
Child Exploitation Manager and Coordinator for the force, Detective Sergeant Zoe Bowden, said:
“Our child exploitation officers work hard all year round to protect children and to ensure the appropriate advice, support and safeguarding is in place for them.
“We would urge everyone to know and see the signs of CE and be a voice for those who may not be able to speak up for themselves. Local communities can help play their part and look out for their neighbours by knowing how to spot if someone is being coerced, exploited or taken advantage of.
“It is important to remember there is never one type of victim or offender and that child exploitation can happen to anyone. The impact this type of crime can have on a child is absolutely devastating and can have a long lasting and significant effect on all those involved.”
Police and Crime Commissioner, David Keane, said:
“Child exploitation targets some of the most vulnerable people in our communities.
“Victims can be manipulated and forced into something they do not want to do, often in return for attention, affection, money, drugs, alcohol or accommodation. Cheshire police work tirelessly to protect our young people from this abhorrent crime but we also need members of the community to support us by being able to recognise the common signs of CE and report any suspicions to protect young people across the county.”
Helen Brackenbury, Chair of the Community Safety Partnership said:
“National Child Exploitation Awareness Day is an important day to help raise awareness of the reality of child exploitation. It is important for us as a Community Safety Partnership to ensure that residents know the signs to look for and feel confident in reporting them. Recognising exploitation is hard, but if you know and see the signs, you can do something about it.
“If you need support, there are specially trained professionals who you can speak to for help. Visit the Know and See website for all the details on spotting the signs and for details on who to contact for support.”
There are various forms of exploitation that involves the manipulation and/or coercion of young people under the age of 18 into activities in exchange for things such as money, gifts, accommodation, affection or status. The manipulation or 'grooming' process involves befriending children, gaining their trust, and often supplying them with drugs and alcohol, sometimes over a long period of time.
Knowing these signs is key to helping to stop child exploitation:
Unexplained injuries e.g. bruising
Regularly using drugs or drinking alcohol
Mood swings, aggression towards others
Truancy or a drop in performance at school
Self-harm – e.g. cutting or eating disorders
Change in appearance, or borrowing clothes from others
Unexplained relationships with older people
Staying out late, not returning home
They have unexplained gifts, expensive clothes, mobile phones
Unexplained money, frequently taking part in activities requiring money
Unknown vehicles dropping them off or picking them up
Unknown friends on their social media sites
Secretive phone calls and internet use
If you suspect someone is carrying out CE, that someone is being exploited, or that you have been a victim yourself, please report it to any of the authorities or the police on 101. In an emergency, dial 999.
For more information about the signs of child exploitation and for help and support, visit www.knowandsee.co.uk
You can also call the national anonymous CE helpline on 116 000