This site is a beta, which means it's a work in progress and we'll be adding more to it over the next few weeks. Your feedback helps us make things better, so please let us know what you think.
Today (18 March) is National Child Exploitation Awareness Day – a campaign to encourage everyone to spot the signs of abuse and sexual abuse in young people and so ultimately remove them from harm.
Child Sexual Exploitation or 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. It can take many forms and often is an indicator of wider child exploitation such as County Lines, trafficking and modern slavery. Despite this it remains an area of criminality that many people are not aware of.
Here in Wiltshire, we have a dedicated Exploitation and Missing Team which has been set up to tackle and reduce exploitation in our communities.
We are also working with our own officers and staff to ensure they are fully aware of the signs of wider exploitation as well as CSE. Some victims of this type of crime will have been through horrific ordeals, but they often do not see themselves as victims of exploitation. It is so important that we build rapport with our young people and that they know we are here to help them.
This year we are supporting the “#Look Closer” campaign which you will see advertised on our website and social media channels. The campaign, devised by The Children’s Society and shared by our partners, highlights the signs for everyone to look out for in everyday situations.
It might be a withdrawn lone child at a bus stop, railway station or fast-food outlet. A single young person at a hotel or roadside services. Public places where a young person on their own would appear out of place, but where young victims of child exploitation are most visible.
If you have children or grandchildren yourself, you will know that they regularly live in a virtual cyber world too – a place where sexual exploitation can thrive. I appreciate that responsible parents, guardians, and family members ensure their children are protected when online and most young people are never exploited this way. But it can happen.
We also have specialist officers whose role is to safeguard children from the exploitation that can exist in the anonymous virtual world of the internet.
We, along with our partners, can certainly help protect and support youngsters but we can’t be everywhere. We need the public to look closer and spot the signs too.
Please take a few minutes to learn more about child exploitation and what to do if you are concerned about a young person or group of young people you see. Click here for more information.