Stephen Rimmer, West Midlands lead for tackling child sexual exploitation, comments on the launch of a campaign to raise awareness of the issue.
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Martin Hurcomb, acting detective superintendent at West Midlands Police, on the force’s involvement in the ‘See Me, Hear me’ campaign to combat child sexual exploitation across the region.
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A campaign to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation launches in the West Midlands today.
Dudley, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Walsall, Coventry, Birmingham and Solihull Councils, along with West Midlands Police and partner organisations, are working together to raise the profile of this shocking and horrific abuse crime.
Child sexual exploitation, 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.
Through the ‘See Me, Hear me’ campaign being launched today, the organisations hope to protect children at risk by increasing people’s understanding of child sexual exploitation and how to spot the warning signs in a child’s behaviour.
A website has been launched at www.seeme-hearme.org.uk , which contains information about CSE and how to spot the warning sites. There will be targeted resources, such as information packs, aimed at parents, schools and the children and young people themselves. These will also be used to increase awareness among those who work in leisure and hospitality industries, such as hotels, leisure centres and taxi companies.
Stephen Rimmer, West Midlands lead for tackling CSE, said:
“Child sexual exploitation has been a hidden crime for far too long. The perpetrators deliberately target some of our most vulnerable children – whether online or in public places – and believe they will not be caught. This has to end now.
“For the first time, all of the agencies with responsibility for tackling this abuse across the West Midlands are working to common standards of reporting and investigation. This must be matched by greater public awareness – from young people, parents and schools in particular – to be alert to these risks.
“No school or community is immune from this threat, and the relentless depiction of online porn is placing ever greater pressure on pre and early teenagers. We must work together to protect our children from manipulative abusers of all ages and backgrounds, and fight back against accepting as ‘normal’ the depiction of aggressive and exploitative sexual relationships.”
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.
Martin Hurcomb, acting detective superintendent at West Midlands Police, said:
“Child sexual exploitation is a horrendous crime against a child, who is often powerless to recognise the exploitative nature of the relationship. The victim will not see themselves as a victim because of the grooming process used by the offender to earn their trust.
“There is no evidence that this dreadful crime is more prevalent in the West Midlands than anywhere else, but we believe that there needs to be more awareness among people of the signs to look out for and to encourage better reporting of the crime.”
Councillor Ann Lucas, leader of Coventry City Council and the Local Government Association’s National Domestic Violence Champion, added:
“Safeguarding our children is our top priority and no child should ever be the victim of such horrific abuse.
“The seven councils, West Midlands Police and partner agencies are strongly committed to preventing child sexual exploitation, supporting victims and bringing offenders to justice as well as raising awareness among professionals and the public.
“I would urge anyone who is concerned about the safety of a young person to call West Midlands Police on 101, speak in confidence to Barnardo’s on 0121 3595333 or in an emergency call 999.”
Childline also have counsellors available online at www.childline.org.uk
People can find out more information about child sexual exploitation by visiting www.seeme-hearme.org.uk
Notes to editors
The campaign follows the development of The See Me Hear Me regional framework, which sets out how agencies across the West Midlands will work together to prevent, respond to and support victims.
The framework was developed by the seven councils, West Midlands Police and partner organisations, including Barnardo’s and PACE and is based on recommendations from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner http://www.childrenscommissioner.gov.uk/info/csegg1
For further information contact: Katherine Finney