We are urging everyone to be more vigilant in spotting the early warning signs and act on any thoughts that something is not quite right. If you do have any worries at all, please tell someone.
We are encouraging everyone to ‘spot the signs’ of child sexual exploitation as the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic means children are spending more time in isolation and could be more susceptible to being groomed online.
Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. It tends to involve an individual or group taking advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator.
Sexual exploitation can have happened even if the activity appears consensual. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.
Rotherham Detective Sergeant Laura Batterham explains more, she said: “Tackling CSE is always a priority for us, however the pandemic means that people are facing a prolonged period of isolation, and this means that perpetrators may change tactics and take advantage of children being away from their friends, out of their usual routine and spending more time online.
“We are urging everyone to be more vigilant in spotting the early warning signs and act on any thoughts that something is not quite right. If you do have any worries at all, please tell someone.
“We have a significant number of dedicated officers involved in ongoing investigations and working to prevent abuse. However, we must all work better and more closely together to protect the vulnerable in our community and that includes raising awareness of what to look out for.”
Often, the behavioural signs that a young person is being exploited appear before the physical ones do. Early signs to look for are:
- Becoming withdrawn from social networks and not mixing with their usual friends
- Regularly coming home late or going missing from home
- Being defensive and aggressive when asked where they have been and what they have been doing
- Becoming secretive or withdrawn
- Receiving unexplained expensive gifts such as designer clothes or a new mobile phone.
DS Batterham continued: “Victims often don’t know that they are being groomed, exploited or mistreated, so we need people to act for them. If you’re worried, please tell us.”
Suzanne Joyner, Director of Children and Young People’s Services at Rotherham Council said: “We’ve maintained our proactive approach to safeguarding children and young people throughout the pandemic and our children’s social care teams have continued to visit families both in person and virtually throughout the restrictions. We all have a responsibility and can all play a role in ensuring children are safe. There are many ways in which you can report concerns and I would urge you, if you are in any doubt at all about a child’s welfare, please report it.”
You can call or text the national helpline Say Something on 116 000 for help and advice. You can also call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or police on 101.
Support for victims and survivors
Grow – 01709 511 171 http://www.growproject.org.uk/our-projects
Rotherham Rise – 0330 2020 571 https://rotherhamrise.org.uk/how-we-can-help/women/
Rothacs – 01709 835 482 https://www.rothacs.org.uk/
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Corporate Communications4 (Police, Corporate Communications, South Yorkshire)