Wiltshire Council works with partners to support national campaign
Wiltshire Council is using a national campaign to highlight how child sexual exploitation can occur to different groups of young people and reminding people to report their concerns.
The National Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Awareness Day on 18 March encourages everyone to think, spot and speak out against abuse and adopt a zero tolerance to adults developing inappropriate relationships with children, or children developing inappropriate relationships with other children.
Once again people are being asked to write a personal pledge on their hands to show support for the Helping Hands campaign by posting the photo on social media with the hashtag #HelpingHands to help raise awareness of CSE
CSE is abuse when children and young people are sexually exploited for something, such as food, accommodation, cigarettes, drugs, affection, gifts or money, by one or a number of people.
Any child or young person, whether they are male or female, regardless of social background, ethnicity, religion or circumstance, could be a CSE victim. This year Wiltshire Council is highlighting that some children are more vulnerable, such as children with communication and learning difficulties. Also the signs of CSE with boys and young men can be hidden or only seen as anti-social or criminal behaviour.
Wiltshire Council and Wiltshire Police have created the Emerald Team which identifies and supports children affected by CSE and pursues offenders. The team works closely with a number of partner agencies to achieve this, working regularly with around 40 of Wiltshire's children to protect them from CSE and provide them with the support to recover from the trauma of this abuse. The team has supported several children who are LGBT or who may be questioning their gender identity and or sexuality and who seem at greater risk of being groomed.
Cabinet member for children's services Laura Mayes said: "Some may think it's not likely to happen in a rural county such as Wiltshire, but sadly this isn't the case. We must all take responsibility and be aware of the signs and ensure we play our part to protect our young people against this crime. Our close working with our partners is a key strength in ensuring we are united in our resolve to address this serious issue."
Detective Superintendent Craig Holden, Head of Public Protection at Wiltshire Police said: "We're committed to working with our partners to protect the most vulnerable people in our communities and putting a stop to Child Sexual Exploitation is an important part of this. Any child irrespective of their gender, sexuality, circumstances or background could be a target of CSE so making parents, teachers, young people, health and social care professionals and other businesses such as hotels and taxi firms aware of the potential signs of abuse is a critical preventative measure. Sadly though, there are still cases of CSE in our communities and when this happens we are relentless in pursuing offenders and bringing them to justice."
Mark Gurrey, independent chair of the Wiltshire Safeguarding Children Board said: "The more people report their concerns the more progress we make in helping prevent young people fall victim to CSE. Although much has been done already, there always is more we can do. CSE is still a crime that remains too far below the radar and too many victims are 'unseen' even to other young people. WSCB has done some good work to engage young people in this work and their views and input will stay at the heart of what we do to counter CSE."
Wiltshire Council's web pages at www.wiltshire.gov.uk/cse contain advice for young people but also information for parents, professionals and businesses on spotting the signs and who to call.
WSCB has a Wiltshire Youth Safeguarding Board which has put together advice for young people to prevent online abuse at http://www.wiltshirescb.org.uk/children-and-young-people/