Along with other Chief Constables around the country, Justine Curran, Chief Constable for Humberside Police (pictured) is leading the force in supporting a National Awareness Day for Child Sexual Exploitation today (Wednesday March 18).
The campaign nationally is a joint initiative involving the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) and the charity NWG Network and aims to encourage people not to ignore the signs.
Research has shown that on average it takes seven years for children to disclose sexual abuse as they either have no one they trust to turn to, no one who listens or no one who asks. Police are today joining up with the charity NWG Network to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation (CSE) and encourage people not to ignore the signs.
NWG Network CEO Sheila Taylor said: “The first day of our two day conference will launch the National CSE Awareness Day which aims to highlight the issues surrounding sexual exploitation; encouraging everyone from all walks of life to think, spot and speak out against abuse and adopt a ‘zero tolerance’ to this abuse within our society. Together, we can work to inform, educate and prevent this form of child sexual abuse within the UK.”
Protecting victims of child sexual exploitation can be particularly difficult as many do not see themselves as victims. Others can be too scared to come forward because of the power their abusers exert over them.
National Policing Lead for Child Protection, Chief Constable Simon Bailey said: “When a child finds the courage to tell somebody they are being abused, that person, whoever they may be, must listen, must believe them and must take appropriate action. It is unacceptable that any child who confides in someone could be ignored.”
CC Bailey will be speaking today at the NWG annual conference “Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation…Getting it right…?” in Nottingham, alongside Sheila Taylor MBE, Lorin LaFave; the mother of schoolboy Breck Bednar who was murdered by a teenager he met online and international experts from Holland and the USA. People are being asked to show their support by posting a photo on social media with a message on their hand pledging to be vigilant and listen to victims of abuse.
The Children’s Commissioner estimated that 16,500 children are at high risk of being exploited for sex across our towns and cities. The police service has made radical changes in recent years in the way it handles and investigates child sexual exploitation.
CC Bailey said: “Police and our partners can’t rely on victims to come forward and report abuse, because many will slip through the net if we do. There’s a responsibility on everyone in society to do all they can to protect vulnerable people. “Frontline officers are now being trained to spot warning signs of grooming and exploitation. They can identify those who are most vulnerable as a result of their living circumstances, or behaviour that indicates a child may already be a victim of abuse.”
“We must all work together and share information to ensure we have as complete an understanding as possible of those children who may be at risk. No matter who an offender is, whether they are working alone or with others and regardless of the community they belong to, we are resolute in our determination to identify them and bring them to justice.”
Home Secretary Theresa May said: “Child sexual exploitation is a despicable crime which this Government is absolutely determined to eradicate.
“This month we published a major report setting out the national response to the failures we have seen in Rotherham, Manchester, Oxford and elsewhere, where children were let down by the very people who were responsible for protecting them.
‘We have also given child sexual abuse the status of a national threat in the Strategic Policing Requirement so that this is prioritised by every police force.
“Government, local authorities, police, NGOs, children’s and health services must all work together to identify and eradicate this exploitation. That’s why we have also introduced measures to improve the early identification of victims and promote the sharing of information and best practice.”
Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield said: “The exploitation of children for sex is a horrific crime which must be stopped and this is why I am a strong supporter of the National Awareness Day. Survivors and victims need to be provided with proper support to overcome their experiences; perpetrators need to be pursued and brought to justice; and professionals trained in identifying the signs.
“As part of its inquiry into child sexual exploitation, the Office of the Children’s Commissioner developed and published the ‘See Me Hear Me’ framework which makes organisations working with children always focus on their needs when addressing exploitation. We have commissioned the University of Sussex to evaluate a pilot of the framework in Oxfordshire, Sandwell and Brighton and Hove and are committed to publishing results as soon as we can so that others may learn from them and determine what is most effective. I am determined to see child sexual exploitation and abuse tackled and will make doing so a high priority during my term as Children’s Commissioner.”
Outlining awareness raising initiatives taking place locally, Detective Chief Inspector Kay Durrant, Humberside Police lead for CSE, said: “We are working with our partners in all local authority areas to tackle the issue of CSE. During 2014, The Crimestoppers Campaign supported by Humberside Police addressed over 800 people at five key events across the force area. This was attended at the highest level by the Chief Constable and the Police and Crime Commissioner. We also have had the privilege of the current High Sheriff, Mrs Gail Mettyear championing CSE working with Humberside Police. Her support has been invaluable and she has made a real difference and continues to do so.
Humberside Police have actively worked with other agencies to raise awareness and this includes the “Not in Our Community Campaign” driven by Hull CCG and is now in some of the Hull and East Riding Schools. CSE is a national problem that is happening now and we need to ensure we are collectively working to protect our young people.
“We need to be tracking how many young people are at risk and what number of known offenders we have, and between us we need to be doing whatever possible to protect them.
“It’s about everyone caring and working together, with our communities, with parents, and most of all with young people to make sure they keep themselves safe helping us to keep them safe too.”