Residents are being encouraged to be aware of the signs of sexual abuse ahead of national Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day on Saturday 18 March.
Leading up to the awareness day, West Sussex County Council and West Sussex Safeguarding Children’s Board are highlighting their range of free online resources which have been specially designed to help raise awareness of Child Sexual Exploitation (also referred to as CSE). This includes information and guidance on how to spot the signs and where to seek help.
Signs of CSE might include:
• Have you noticed a change in their usual behaviour?
• Do they have unexplained gifts/possessions?
• Are they missing or skipping school regularly?
• Do they have friends you’re concerned about - are they significantly older?
• Have they been picked up from home or school by someone you don’t know?
• Are they secretive about where they go, who they see or talk to online?
• Have you noticed any signs of physical harm?
• Are you worried about unsafe sexual behaviour?
• Are you worried they are using drugs or alcohol?
County Council Cabinet Member for Children - Start of Life, Stephen Hillier, said: “As a county we need to accept that Child Sexual Exploitation, sadly, poses a threat to our young people, irrelevant of their gender, race, sexual orientation or social background. We know it happens in West Sussex and the County Council continues to address the issues faced, alongside its partners, through the delivery of specialist support services.”
The impact of such support services has been described by a CSE victim from West Sussex: “My support worker was amazing. I got to know her which helped me to trust her and open up to her and explain what was going on. This helped me to keep safe.”
Stephen Hillier added: “Sometimes all it takes is someone to listen, to notice. Local businesses, public transport operators and members of the public are the eyes and ears of the community. We need them to help make West Sussex an even safer place for our young people to live and grow. Together, we have a moral responsibility to be aware of the key signs of child sexual abuse and report concerns.”
Last year, the Safer West Sussex Partnership funded CSE awareness training for more than 650 public sector professionals, including hoteliers, taxi drivers and other frontline staff.
Child Sexual Exploitation can take many different forms -and now includes the internet which presents significant risks to young people and is a place where inappropriate online behaviour can occur.
Parents and carers are encouraged to be aware of their child’s online activity and familiarise themselves with the major signs of exploitation.
‘A guide to keeping your child safe online’ is available via www.westsussex.gov.uk/CSE.
Suggested actions include using parental monitoring tools and encouraging open discussion about their activities.
If you have concerns about a child or have information about a local area, contact Sussex Police on 101. Anonymous reports can be made via the National CSE helpline 116 000.
To find out more about CSE and the support available visit www.westsussex.gov.uk/CSE.