Do you know how to spot the signs of child sexual exploitation?

16 March 2017
Dorset Police are supporting national Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day on Saturday 18 March and are reminding the people of Dorset to look out for signs.

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a form of child abuse that involves the manipulation or coercion of young people to engage in sexual activity in exchange for money, gifts including alcohol, tobacco and drugs, accommodation, affection or status.

Children and young people who become involved face risks to their physical, emotional and psychological health and wellbeing. Any young person could become a victim of child sexual exploitation; the crime harms both girls and boys, from any background and of any ethnicity, all over the UK. Detective Inspector Andy Bell of the Dorset Police Integrated Missing Person and CSE Investigation Team said: “I urge anyone who has any suspicions that a child is at risk of CSE, no matter how small, to report your concerns to the police. The information you have could help prevent a child from being harmed.

“There are many signs to look out for including; drug or alcohol misuse, sexual health issues and sexualised behaviour, sudden access to money or new things, self-harm, change in appearance, and/or temperament, low self-esteem, unexplained injuries, criminality, older friends and acquaintances, and repeatedly going missing, absent or truant.  

“As well as working together with partners to protect children from CSE and support victims, we are particularly concerned about the links between those children who go missing and their vulnerability to sexual and other types of exploitation. It is important that members of the public do not make presumptions as to whether they think a child is vulnerable or not. A missing child is always vulnerable.”

There is some evidence to show that hotels and B&Bs are often used as locations to meet, groom and abuse children. As a result, the staff who work in hotels and B&Bs are in a unique position to help. Detective Inspector Andy Bell continues: “There is a responsibility on everyone in society to do all they can to protect vulnerable people. Members of the public, retailers and those in service industries such as taxi drivers, hoteliers and food outlets can help safeguard children at risk by looking out for signs of vulnerability and abuse.

“We are working with Hotel Watch, which is an initiative involving the hotel and B&B community in Bournemouth and the surrounding areas, with the hope of expanding the scheme to other areas across the county in the near future.

“Hotel Watch encourages the sharing of information between hotels, B&Bs and the police, to encourage reporting and facilitate training to enable staff to better identify criminal or vulnerable situations like spotting the signs of CSE.”

Information specifically for hotels and B&Bs can be found by visiting: dorset.police.uk/hotels-cse

Martyn Underhill, Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner, said: “In order to effectively safeguard children from abuse, we must all realise the role we can play. The Hotel Watch initiative is one example of how local businesses, residents and the police can work together to enhance community safety and protect the vulnerable. 

“This year the Force once again received a ‘good’ rating from HMIC regarding its ability to protect vulnerable people. The recent confirmation that age appropriate sex and relationship education will be made compulsory in all schools in England will equip children with an understanding of healthy relationships from a young age. 

“These are positive steps but we must not become complacent while children continue to be at risk. By taking some time to familiarise ourselves with indicators of exploitation and understanding how to report concerns, the community can provide an invaluable defence for vulnerable children.”
  Detective Inspector Andy Bell said: “We are determined to identify perpetrators of CSE and bring them to justice.

“In 2016 the Integrated Missing Person and CSE Investigation Team charged 66 perpetrators of CSE for offences such as rape, inciting a child to engage in sexual activity, creating indecent images of children and drugs offences. In addition, the team have worked to safeguard 108 children who were assessed as being at significant risk of CSE.

“If you have any concerns that a child may be a victim of CSE please report it to the police. Visit dorset.police.uk/cse for more information and the other support organisations who can help.”

Report concerns: 

Dorset Police - report online at dorset.police.uk/do-it-online or call 101. If a child is in immediate danger dial 999.

Crimestoppers - anonymously on 0800 555 111

Local Authority Children’s Social Care: • Bournemouth: 01202 458 101  • Poole: 01202 735 046 • Dorset: 01202 228 866
Concerned about your own behaviour? Get help from ‘Stop it Now!’ by calling their confidential helpline on 0808 1000 900 or visit www.stopitnow.org.uk. 
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