Child sexual exploitation is a despicable crime. It can affect any child, regardless of their culture, ethnicity, religion, sex or background. There isn’t one type of victim or offender of child sexual exploitation. It can take many forms in many settings.
Offenders target vulnerable young people and use their power over the child to sexually abuse them. Violence, coercion, and intimidation are all too common.
They often don’t see themselves as a victim. They don’t recognise the coercive nature of the relationship and are unlikely to report the abuse.
The unfortunate truth is that once the police become aware a child has been abused it is too late; they have already been harmed.
Our focus needs to be on preventing abuse taking place in the first place. Education and awareness at an early age is a priority. I believe it is crucial in preventing our children becoming the victims of the future.
We need to build a culture where people will not look the other way when they see signs of abuse, however small they may be.
In a relatively short space of time, police forces have moved on from CSE being barely recognised and understood to making real progress. We’ve protected many children and put many abusers behind bars.
Through a Home Office grant, a network of coordinators and analysts were recruited to cover every policing region in England and Wales with the focus being CSE. They were charged with helping forces to deliver the national CSE action plan and to identify, develop and share good practice.
Part of this work has seen problem profiles for every region being developed, bringing together data and intelligence from across all police forces and over 250 partner agency submissions relating to the scale and nature of the threat.
As a result between November 2014 and October 2015 we know that around 9,000 victims or children at risk of CSE were identified and nearly 7,400 crimes recorded by the police across England and Wales. The profiles of victims and perpetrators is quite consistent with the Children’s Commissioner’s assessment – but the scale has clearly grown. This snapshot can be seen here.
As a service, we are getting better and better at working with partners to identify children at risk but I know more still needs to be done.
I urge everyone to recognise the role they have to play in raising awareness of child sexual exploitation. Safeguarding children is everyone’s business.
Anyone who is in contact with children needs to be vigilant to the signs of abuse. We all need to think, spot and educate.
If, as a society, we are going to truly tackle sexual abuse of children we need to know the signs of abuse and share concerns with those who can help.
Make your pledge today to educate, speak out and encourage others to join us in the fight against child sexual exploitation. Show your support by writing your personal pledge and posting it on social media with the hashtag #HelpingHands to help raise awareness of CSE.