Children across the south west are victims of sexual exploitation.
But while media reports often highlight cases of adult grooming and child abuse, Devon and Cornwall Police say the most likely form of child sexual exploitation (CSE) in the south west is perpetrated by other young people.
It's sometimes referred to as ‘peer on peer’ exploitation, and its victims are young males and young females.
“People may be unaware that CSE can be perpetrated by young people aged 18 or younger, and they themselves may also have been victims of CSE,” says Detective Chief Inspector Alison Lander, Devon & Cornwall Police and Force lead for CSE.
Recent research led by Plymouth’s Safeguarding Children’s Board found little awareness and understanding among young people of peer on peer sexual exploitation.
Their research showed that this form of exploitation in particular was not widely recognised or understood as a crime, which is preventing children from reporting it.
They found that young people are also not reporting sexual exploitation because they worry that doing so would lose them friendships; they’re concerned about how their parents might react; or that they’ll be seen as wasting police time.
Monday 18 March is a national awareness day for highlighting CSE. Authorities across the South West are using the day to say to children and young people, “If you are put in a situation where you feel pressured sexually, please report it. It’s OK to tell someone.”
Lisa, (not her real name)
Lisa is 15 years old and lives with her mother. She began to go missing, leaving the house during the middle of the night to meet peers, and there were concerns about her drinking alcohol while out.
Her behaviour in school and at home deteriorated with no clear reason. Her mum found information on Lisa’s phone, indicating that she had become sexually active, and having unprotected sex.
Lisa said that she’d exchanged indecent images of herself with some of boys at her school.
On occasions that she went missing, Lisa was drinking alcohol and smoking cannabis with her male friends. She’d had sex with one of the boys while under the influence, and he’d told his friends about it.
Lisa started getting messages from other boys asking her to send pictures of herself in her underwear. Lisa felt uncomfortable, but said ‘everyone sends nudes’. And besides, she felt it was nice to have boys be interested in her in that way.
One boy said that he could get some cannabis, and he offered some to Lisa in exchange for sex. She’s thought he was joking, but the boy repeated it a few times and on a later occasion with him, she went along with what he asked.
Regional Head of Service for the NSPCC, Sharon Copsey, says: “Having early conversations about healthy relationships and consent is vital to tackling child sexual exploitation before it starts. We know that young people don’t always understand that what’s happening to them is abuse.”
Detective Chief Inspector Alison Lander, said: “Many young people who are being exploited do not realise they are at risk and will not ask for help. Some may see themselves as willing participants in such abuse, not realising that what is happening to them is illegal. It’s a difficult message to convey to young people, but it’s really important that they are aware of risk and how to avoid it. Crucially they need to know how to report it, and to have confidence to do so.
“The public can really help us detect and prevent CSE among young people by knowing the signs and reporting any concerns they have.
“It’s not just parents, or teachers and carers who can help spot the signs of CSE. Anyone working in a service industry, such as taxi drivers and hotel workers, shop keepers; anyone who may be able to spot vulnerable young people who may be at risk of exploitation or in an exploitative relationship – can also help to spot the signs and to report any concerns.”
Andy Bickley, Independent Chair of Plymouth Safeguarding Children’s Board, said: “We are committed to working with local organisations to tackle child sexual abuse and exploitation and CSE Day is the ideal opportunity to help improve awareness.
“This latest research shows that it isn’t just adults that exploit children and young people, it can also be their peers, so it’s really important that we make sure our young people know what the dangers are, and also what support is available.”
Schools across the South West and services that work with young people are actively raising awareness of CSE among young people. Parents and guardians are being encouraged to do the same at home.
To find out more about child sexual exploitation, and how to spot the signs, visit https://www.dcfp.org.uk/child-abuse/child-sexual-exploitation/
There are a number of local and national agencies that can help, including Barnado’s, NWG, NSPCC, as well as local Safeguarding Children’s Boards including the NHS, Social Care, Education and the Police.
More information about Child Sexual Exploitation and NWG’s CSE Awareness Day, 18 March 2019, is available online at www.dc.police.uk/CSEAwareness
More than 100 people attended an industry event hosted by Visit Dorset which aimed to share top tips to boost their success within the tourism sector.
Small business owners and teams from firms based across the county attended Visit Dorset’s Meet the Experts event, which took place at Kingston Maurward on Thursday, March 7. The event was open to current and potential future members of Visit Dorset who wanted to hear from a line-up of tourism experts about a variety of topics including accessibility, photography and videos, business mentoring, and award entries.
The Visit Dorset Team gave an update to their members on the successful Dorset marketing campaigns over the past 12 months, as well as how to ‘maximise your Visit Dorset website listing.’ Attendees also heard from Ross Calladine, Head of Business Support at VisitEngland, who talked about making a business accessible and growing your business using VisitEngland’s free online resources.
Nick Thornley on behalf of the Visit Dorset team said: “We were thrilled to welcome businesses from Weymouth to Christchurch to our Meet the Experts event. It is the first time that we have hosted an event of this kind, following our successful digital roadshows, and it was great to be able to give something back to those businesses who welcome in the visitors to our county. We had a great turnout and we have had some fantastic feedback from those who attended.”
Martin Curtis, owner of Jurassic Coast Guides, spoke about starting his own business three years ago and his work with Visit Dorset. He also spoke about being named as one of 10 finalists from across the UK in VisitEngland’s Tourism Superstar 2019 competition, after being nominated by the Visit Dorset team.
Other speakers included Lyn Martin, owner of Dorset House B&B, who gave her top tips for running a successful accommodation business and encouraged attendees to put themselves forward for the Dorset Tourism Awards after her own success at the 2018 event. Nick Gregory from the Dorset Growth Hub highlighted the free support, workshops and training that is available for small tourism businesses in Dorset, with skilled specialists on hand to help you on a wide range of topics.
One of the event’s attendees, Emily Freeman, marketing manager at South Lytchett Manor Caravan and Camping Park, said: “It was a fascinating afternoon of networking and discussion with businesses coming from all across Dorset. We particularly benefited from the discussion on accessibility by Ross Calladine of VisitEngland and exploring the new VisitEngland digital toolkit to help online growth in a fast moving digital era. We were re-assessing our accessibility page on our website before we had even left the event.”
For more information about the Visit Dorset Team, including details on membership benefits, go to http://www.visit-dorset.com
The Visit Dorset Tourism Team comprises of local authority tourism officers from the district and borough councils of Christchurch, East Dorset, Purbeck, North Dorset, West Dorset and Weymouth & Portland and represents over 600 private businesses. Visit http://www.visit-dorset.com for more information.
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