Organisations across Bedfordshire are urging people to say something if they see something and help combat child sexual exploitation (CSE), as part of National CSE Awareness Day.
CSE is a type of sexual abuse which sees a child taken advantage of and sexually abused. They will receive something (for example gifts, alcohol, or even love) in exchange for performing sexual activities either on the person exploiting them or someone else.
National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day is today (Monday), and aims to raise awareness of the issue, and the police and local authorities are encouraging people to learn how to spot the signs of CSE – as well as to speak out if they suspect something.
The Pan Bedfordshire Local Safeguarding Children Board is holding a CSE seminar today, focusing on the fact that it can happen to boys too and on Thursday a number of hoteliers from across Bedfordshire will be attending a training conference to learn about the signs of CSE.
Detective Superintendent John Murphy, Head of the Bedfordshire Police Public Protection Unit, said: “Tackling child sexual exploitation is an absolutely crucial priority for us and we’re committed to working alongside our partners to bring those responsible to justice while providing support for victims.”
Cllr Shan Hunt, Portfolio Holder for Children’s Social Care at Bedford Borough Council said: “We know how difficult it is for victims to talk about their abuse and therefore less likely to report.
“It’s important we recognise the signs of CSE and ensure that victims are supported.”
Signs that a child is being sexually exploited include behavioural changes, alcohol and/or drug misuse, self-harm, being absent from school, going missing regularly, acting secretively, and receiving unexplained gifts or money – to name just a few.
Fran Pearson, Chair of the Luton Safeguarding Children Board, said: “Across Bedfordshire we are committed to working together in tackling CSE and safeguarding children.
“We want to raise awareness and provide children with the confidence to be able to report their concerns, knowing that they will be acted upon.”
Sue Harrison, Central Bedfordshire’s Council’s Director of Children’s Services, said: “We understand the difficulty in speaking out about CSE and we want to reach out to anyone who may be a victim to let them know there is support available.”
There are a number of organisations that you can report your concern to who can also provide further advice; and by speaking out you could be helping to protect more children from suffering this terrible abuse.
To report suspicions around CSE call police on 101, or 999 in an emergency.
For further information about CSE visit: www.bedfordshireagainstcse.org.