People are encouraged to see the risks, not the gender and play their part in helping to tackle child sexual exploitation (CSE).
CSE can happen to boys as well as girls is the latest message from a regional campaign to raise awareness of this hidden crime.
Boys could be abused by male or female offenders and face particular challenges to speaking out. They are likely to fear not being believed or judgements being made about their sexuality or masculinity.
The regional see me, hear me campaign is highlighting the abuse can happen to anyone, regardless of their gender following the conclusion of a court case in the region.
On Wednesday (July 6) ten men were sentenced for committing historical sexual offences against two young men who were both sexually exploited in their teens. https://www.west-midlands.police.uk/latest-news/news.aspx?id=4714
West Midlands councils and West Midlands Police are working together to raise awareness of CSE across the region.
The campaign website www.seeme-hearme.org.uk is a one-stop shop for information about CSE and how to spot the warning signs, along with help and advice for young people, parents and carers, professionals and schools.
Councillor Ian Cooper, cabinet member for children’s services, said:
“Child sexual exploitation is a horrendous crime. Just because a young man might be seen as being strong, tough and ‘able to look after himself’ doesn’t mean he’s not vulnerable to CSE.
“We all need to increase our awareness of CSE, know the signs of grooming and be aware it can happen to boys and young men as well as girls and young women.
“Preventing CSE is everyone’s responsibility and I would urge people to visit our campaign website www.seeme-hearme.org.uk to find out more and see what they can do to help protect our children and young people.”
CSE can affect any child regardless of their gender, social or ethnic background. It is child abuse and involves perpetrators grooming their victims in various ways, such as in person, via mobiles or online, to gain their trust before emotionally and sexually abusing them.
It can take place in many forms, whether through a seemingly consensual relationship, or a young person being forced to have sex in return for some kind of payment, such as drugs, money, gifts or even protection and affection.
Warning signs of CSE include having friends who are older, persistently going missing, secretive relationships with unknown adults, truancy from school, chronic fatigue, changes in behaviour, constant calls on a mobile phone and the possession of money or new things.
Nick Page, chief executive of Solihull Council and regional lead for CSE, added:
“By its very nature this form of child abuse is often hidden. Many young people who are affected don’t realise they are a victim and will not ask for help.
“This recent court case highlights how horrific this crime is and so we must all play our part in tackling the abuse.
“Through our see me hear me campaign, we want people to know it can happen to anyone, regardless of their gender.
“We should all make ourselves aware of the signs so we can identify if a young person could be at risk and report any concerns. Visit www.seeme-hearme.org.uk for more information.”
Anyone who is concerned about the safety of a young person should call West Midlands Police on 101, speak in confidence to Barnardo’s on 0121 3595333 or in an emergency call 999.
Childline also have counsellors available online at www.childline.org.uk
People can find out more information about child sexual exploitation by visiting www.seeme-hearme.org.uk
The See Me, Hear Me campaign was launched in June 2014 by Dudley, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Walsall, Coventry, Birmingham and Solihull councils, along with West Midlands Police, to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation.