Today (14th March) sees the launch of a countywide initiative to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation (CSE). CSE is a form of sexual abuse that involves the manipulation and/or coercion of young people under the age of 18 into sexual activity.
Essex, Southend and Thurrock Safeguarding Children Boards in partnership with Essex Police launched the I Didn’t Know campaign today with an aim to break down some of the myths around CSE and encourage members of the public to report any concerns they may have.
Local businesses are particularly important in tackling CSE and as part of the campaign local taxi drivers are getting involved by displaying awareness stickers in their vehicles (picture below). The stickers were paid for by the Police and Crime Commissioner's Hidden Harm fund. The campaign demonstrates that tackling CSE is a whole community effort; whether you are a parent, member of the public or business owner there are things you can do to help stop this horrific crime.
It aims to raise awareness about Child Sexual Exploitation across the wider Essex area and support communities understanding of CSE, how to recognise it, and what to do to get help and support.
Simon Hart, Independent Chair Essex Safeguarding Children Board said: “CSE is a hugely important issue that can have significant consequences for victims. This campaign, therefore, is vital to help ensure children in Essex are kept safe from abuse and exploitation. It is so important that local communities realise the difference they can make by being vigilant to the signs of CSE and reporting their concerns.”
Dave Peplow, Independent Chair of the Thurrock Local Safeguarding Children Board: “Child Sexual Exploitation is a priority for the Thurrock Local Safeguarding Children Board and a lot of work has been done with professionals in a range of agencies to ensure that they can identify those that are at risk. We now need everyone’s help.”
Christie Doorly, Independent Chair of Southend Local Safeguarding Children Board said: “Protecting our children and young people from exploitation is the responsibility of us all. Please make sure that you know how to spot the signs of child sexual exploitation and what you can do to help children and young people who are being exploited.”
Deputy Chief Constable Matthew Horne said: “Young people can be exposed to exploitation in a huge variety of ways, both online and in person. They may not see themselves as a victim of CSE and therefore may not always come forward to tell someone. I want everyone in Essex to help me by making sure you understand the dangers of child sexual exploitation and the way that grooming can happen.”
Nick Alston, Police and Crime Commissioner for Essex, said: “Protecting our young people from harm and sexual exploitation must be an absolute priority. I really respect the courage of the young people who’ve contributed to this project: their voices are captured powerfully in the films. I’m also pleased that all the agencies are working together to help raise awareness of the signs of CSE. Partnership work is crucial, and that must include all of us - whether we’re parents, teachers or taxi drivers – looking out for signs of CSE. If you see something that raises your concerns, please report it.”
Councillor Dick Madden, Essex County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adults and Children said: “Raising awareness of the signs of child sexual exploitation is a big challenge, as there are many myths and stereotypes linked to CSE from recent cases in the news. We encourage everyone to take a few minutes to find out about the signs of CSE to ensure you’re not one of the people saying “I didn’t know”. It could be happening in your street, your neighbourhood, your community.”
Cllr Bukky Okunade, Thurrock’s Lead Member for Children's Social Care said: "It is absolutely imperative all agencies work together to ensure the issue of child sexual exploitation is stopped from happening. Thurrock Council’s children's services stand firm with Essex Police to protect children from any such harm."
The campaign will be running locally with each district in Essex supporting the campaign in their communities. Everyone is able to access the resources to download and print via the Essex Police www.essex.police.uk./cse
or LSCB websites and business owners in particular are encouraged to become involved as research has shown some of the locations in which young people are being groomed by perpetrators include cafes, taxi ranks, shopping centres and fast food outlets.
You can support the campaign on social media #KnowAboutCSE , visit essex.police.uk/cse to download resources and watch videos or join the live web chat where you can ask your questions about CSE to members of Essex Police and Essex County Council.