A Norfolk-wide campaign is launching today to raise awareness of the signs of child sexual exploitation.
Today, March 18, is National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day and organisations across the county have banded together to highlight its indicators and risks.
Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a type of abuse which involves offenders grooming children and using their power to abuse them, with gifts, status or blackmail to exploit children and young people. Often those being abused do not spot the signs or feel unable to ask for help.
The campaign aims to make young people, parents and carers and those working with children aware of what CSE is and give them the knowledge to spot the signs so they can take steps to help victims.
Signs could range from a young person receiving gifts, using their computer or mobile phone secretively or having significantly older friends, to regular sexually transmitted infections or pregnancies, self harming or changes in appearance.
The new campaign coincides with pledges from agencies across the county to continue to tackle CSE.
The county’s children services team is currently actively involved in 87 cases where a medium to high risk of CSE has been identified, with 25 to 30 new cases being screened via the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub every week.
James Joyce, chairman of the children’s services committee at Norfolk County Council, said: “Sadly there are victims in our county and there are also young people who are at risk – we all need to be vigilant to this kind of abuse.
“Over the last year we have done a huge amount of work to make sure that we are on top of this issue in the county – auditing cases and meeting regularly with our partners to scrutinise our response.
“Every child in the county deserves to be protected from harm and we will continue to work with our partners across the public and voluntary sector to ensure that we are doing all we can to safeguard Norfolk’s children from sexual exploitation.”
David Ashcroft, chair of the Norfolk Safeguarding Children Board, said: “The impact of sexual exploitation can be devastating – impacting on physical and emotional health, achievement at school and relationships with family and friends.
“What has been clear in the reports from other parts of the country is that CSE often goes unrecognised by victims, parents and professionals and this campaign is about raising awareness of the signs of abuse. “
Stephen Bett, Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, said his office is currently administering £4.85 million on behalf of the Home Office towards charities and organisations which help survivors of sexual abuse, both adults and children.