As the festive season approaches, people are reminded to be aware of key warning signs of child sexual exploitation (CSE).
The see me, hear me partnership made up of West Midlands councils and West Midlands Police is highlighting signs of this hidden crime in the run up to Christmas, to help people identify concerns and get help.
If you’re seeing a child or young person receiving unexplained money or gifts this Christmas, it could be an indication something is wrong.
This, along with other unusual behaviour, such as mood swings, skipping school, being secretive and staying out late are all signs parents, carers, schools, professionals and young people should not ignore.
Councillor Brigid Jones, cabinet member for children, families and schools at Birmingham City Council, said:
“During the festive period it’s common for children and young people to exchange gifts with their friends, but it’s important for parents and carers to look out for anything unusual as this could indicate they may be at risk of abuse
“We all have our part to play in protecting our children and young people from this horrific abuse, so I’d encourage everyone to check out our website www.seeme-hearme.org.uk to find out more and see what they can do to help protect them.”
CSE can happen to anyone, regardless of their gender, culture or 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.
Nick Page, chief executive of Solihull Council and regional lead for CSE added:
“Organisations across the region are working closely together, sharing information to identify and disrupt the activities of those who commit the abuse.
“Perpetrators are becoming increasingly sophisticated, so it’s vital we are all taking responsibility for keeping children and young people safe.
“We should all make ourselves aware of the warning signs so we can identify and report any concerns.”
Anyone who is concerned about the safety of a young person should call West Midlands Police on 101, speak or text in confidence to Say Something 116000 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 by visiting www.seeme-hearme.org.uk
Notes to editors
The see me, hear me campaign was launched in June 2014 by Dudley, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Walsall, Coventry, Birmingham and Solihull councils, along with West Midlands Police, to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation.
For further information, please contact: Katherine Finney, Communications, 01384 815227