Child Sexual Exploitation
Would you know how to spot the signs that a child was being exploited?
On Thursday, 22 July professionals working to keep children and young people safe in Bedfordshire will be hosting an online webinar on Facebook to answer your questions and talk about the issues that matter to you.
Children and young people are being targeted by criminal gangs, who manipulate and coerce them into taking part in criminality, such as stealing, carrying drugs or weapons or sexually exploiting them for their own purposes.
Although this is a national issue, it is also happening in Bedfordshire and we need to be aware of this and to be able to spot the signs that our children may be victims of exploitation.
Child sexual exploitation (CSE) can affect any child and young person, regardless of their background, culture, gender, age or ethnicity.
It is a type of abuse in which children are sexually exploited for money, power or status.
It sees children and young people under 18 involved in exploitative situations and relationships where the young person receives something (e.g. accommodation, drugs, alcohol, affection, gifts) as a result of them performing, and/or another performing on them, sexual activities.
It can also occur through the use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition, such as being persuaded to post images on the internet or messages on mobile phones.
While CSE can happen anywhere in any community, there have been efforts locally to raise awareness among taxi and private hire vehicle companies, bars, nightclubs, fast food takeaways as well as hotels.
The exploiters, who sometimes work in groups, are organised and deliberate in their actions and use sophisticated tactics.
Grooming can take place in many forms both online using social media, via mobile phones, or in person.
Often the grooming starts with friendship or a relationship. The victim may be misguided in to thinking the adult is their boyfriend/girlfriend. The offender may supply gifts such clothes, money, mobiles phones or other presents.
They may also supply drugs and alcohol. Sometimes the victims are given lifts and transported around.
Over time, the offender will usually encourage the child to distance themselves from their usual family and friends.
Soon in to the friendship/relationship, sexual assault or rape may occur. The victim may feel pressured to have sex because they are in a relationship or because they feel threatened or frightened.
Sex may involve one person or they may be forced to have sex with several adults or be passed around the group.
The child may not always realise they are being groomed and may even believe they are a willing participant, when they are anything but.
How to get help ?
Our Operation Makesafe initiative was set up to educate hotels, bars, clubs, fast food outlets and taxi companies around the county how to spot the signs of child sexual exploitation and know how to report it.
The NSPCC website has a whole host of information about how to spot child sexual exploitation, while you can also talk to them anonymously.
You can also contact Link to Change, a local charity who work with victims of child sexual exploitation in Bedfordshire.
Here in Bedfordshire, our VERU Village is a list of local organisations here to help you, especially young people. Click here to visit the VERU’s website.