Awareness of child sexual exploitation is being raised through a campaign asking people to write personal pledges on their hands and share on social media.
West Sussex County Council is supporting the national Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Day on Friday March 18 and it is aiming to highlight the importance of being aware of the signs of CSE as victims can be any gender, sexual orientation or ethnicity and from any background.
Residents are being asked to raise awareness of CSE by taking a photo of a personal pledge on their hand and posting it to social media with #HelpingHands and the local CSE handle #StandAgainstCSE.
Louise Goldsmith, leader of West Sussex County Council, said: “Vulnerable groups often remain invisible and it is essential that people stay alert to the signs of child sexual exploitation.
“We need to challenge people’s assumptions. Boys and young people with learning disabilities are just as susceptible to being victims of sexual exploitation. Girls disclose more, engage more and are referred more. But this doesn’t mean it’s happening less to boys.”
CSE is a form of sexual abuse that involves the manipulation and/or coercion of young people under the age of 18 into sexual activity both on and offline.
Mrs Goldsmith added: “The West Sussex Safeguarding Children Board has put together a range of information for parents and carers about CSE including signs that people can look out for. These can be as simple as a lack of self-esteem to having presents they can’t account for.
“Last year we made a promise to tackle CSE alongside the Sussex Police and Crime Commissioner and the West Sussex Safeguarding Children Board. The promise sets out what support and respect young people can expect in the county. We now need to continue working together and empower children with the confidence to seek support when they need it most.”
Within West Sussex more than 60 performances of Chelsea’s Choice, an educational play explaining CSE, have taken place at secondary schools, colleges, children’s homes and independent schools funded by the county council reaching more than 11,000 children and young people.
The county council is also delivering focused training to professionals to stop the signs of CSE and to use new screening tools, and is also launching a range of blogs and materials around healthy relationships aimed at young people.
It is also supporting Sussex Police’s campaign with posters in its libraries.
Anyone who has concerns about a child should contact the Children’s Access Point on 01403 229900, Sussex Police or the National CSE helpline anonymously on 116 000.
To find out more about CSE and the support available visit www.westsussex.gov.uk/CSE
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