Cumbria police have seen a surge in child sexual exploitation cases in the last two years.
Officers are asking parents to speak to their children and be aware of what they are doing on a day-to-day basis.
With the development of technology and changes to how criminals operate, the police say they are using new methods to keep young people safe and bring justice to those who exploit children.
What is child sexual exploitation?
Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a type of abuse. Children in exploitative situations and relationships receive gifts, money or affection in return for either performing or being subjected to sexual activities.
Detective Chief Inspector Dan St Quintin said, “There are numerous signs which parents can look out for and I’d urge everyone to consider these. Young people who are being exploited or groomed may not initially be aware what is happening, so it is vital we all look out for children across Cumbria.”
Signs of child sexual exploitation or child criminal exploitation can include:
If you feel your child is being secretive about who they are talking to and where they are going
Becoming emotionally volatile (mood swings are common in all young people, but more severe changes could indicate that something is wrong)
Engaging less with their usual friends
Appearing controlled by their phone
Regularly missing from home or school
Associating with older men and women, particularly if they go missing and are being defensive about where they are and what they’re doing
Possessing items such as phones or jewellery that you haven’t given them but which they couldn’t afford to buy themselves
Cumbria Police has released a list of actions you can take if you spot signs of exploitation:
Always call the police when a child goes missing, even if this happens regularly. You do not need to wait 24 hours.
Let children or young people know they can talk to someone on anonymous support services such as www.ChildLine.org.uk.
Explain that it’s easy for people to lie about age, gender, interests online and children should never arrange to meet someone without an adult who they trust.
Make sure children or young people know that once they share personal details online, including pictures, they lose control over where these may end up.
Keep security settings on social media at high levels.
Listen to what children say and take it seriously. It’s important you believe them.
The Constabulary says they have made progress in the way they record and investigate crime which has allowed children who are vulnerable to exploitation to be identified as soon as possible.
Officers then work quickly to work out the best way to keep the victim safe and prevent it from happening again - this work can also lead to the identification of others, or those at risk.
For advice and support on child sexual exploitation visit: www.thinkuknow.co.uk