A campaign to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation (CSE) takes to the airwaves today (Tuesday 16 February).
The regional See Me, Hear Me campaign will feature on local radio over the coming weeks to raise the profile of this abuse crime and help keep children safe.
The campaign, a joint project between the City of Wolverhampton Council, other West Midlands councils and West Midlands Police, highlights the horrors of this hidden crime of manipulation.
Listeners to Free Radio will be made aware of the signs which could mean their child is at risk of being exploited, such as having unexplained money or gifts, skipping school or hanging around with a new group of friends older than them.
People will be directed to the campaign website www.seeme-hearme.org.uk, a one-stop shop for information, help and advice for young people, parents and carers, professionals and schools.
The site also features interactive and educational films to raise awareness of CSE, along with campaign posters for individuals and organisations to download and display.
Councillor Val Gibson, the City of Wolverhampton Council’s Cabinet Member for Children and Families, said: “Preventing CSE is everyone’s responsibility. Spotting and acting on the warning signs can help prevent children becoming the victims of this most manipulative of crimes.
“Sexual exploitation of children and young people thrives on ignorance, manipulation and vulnerability. No one in the West Midlands should suffer this crime, and the bullies, abusers and perpetrators need to be held to account. They prey on vulnerable young people and we should do all we can to stop them.
“Spreading the message across the airwaves will hopefully make more people aware of how to identify CSE and what to do if they are concerned about a child or young person.
“I would also urge people to visit our campaign website www.seeme-hearme.org.uk to find out more and see what they can do to help protect our children and young people.”
CSE is a crime that can affect any child, anytime, regardless of their social or ethnic background. It is child abuse and involves perpetrators grooming their victims in various ways, such as in person, via mobiles or online, to gain their trust before emotionally and sexually abusing them.
It can take place in many forms, whether through a seemingly consensual relationship, or a young person being forced to have sex in return for some kind of payment, such as drugs, money, gifts or even protection and affection.
There are a number of warning signs people may spot in a child or young person’s behaviour that may indicate something is wrong. These include having friends who are older, persistently going missing, secretive relationships with unknown adults, truancy from school, chronic fatigue, constant calls on a mobile phone and the possession of money or new things.
Anyone who is concerned about the safety of a child should call West Midlands Police on 101, speak in confidence to Barnardo’s on 0121 359 5333 or in an emergency call 999.
Childline also has counsellors available online at www.childline.org.uk.
People can find out more information about child sexual exploitation at www.seeme-hearme.org.uk.