What can you do?
- first of all, remember that CSE can happen to any child of any age, gender, ethnicity, ability, sexuality. And when I say child I mean anyone under the age of 18. Just because someone reaches the age of consent doesn't mean they can't be exploited. You can't consent to exploitation. It is a child protection issue. It is child abuse.
As a parent, aunt, uncle, friend or family of a child:
- do whatever you can to build self esteem, resilience and challenge negative body image. There are some good resources and tips on www.selfesteem.dove.co.uk
- model positive, healthy relationships. This is going to be their benchmark for what's acceptable in a relationship.
- let them know that it's ok to make mistakes. I confess I find it hard not to snap when mine drop their juice cups 50 times a day. But I try not to, because long term I want them to know that it's ok to make mistakes and that they can come to me with them without fear of reprimand.
- talk to children about relationships, consent, sex, rights and responsibilities. When it's appropriate show them things like the Consent/Cup of Tea vid - https://youtu.be/fGoWLWS4-kU.
- Encourage, embrace and push for sex and relationship education in schools. DO NOT BE AFRAID OF IT. If they don't get this information in school or at home they'll find it elsewhere. And the Internet is full of not particularity great, and outright dangerous, examples of sexual relationships.
- Educate yourself:
- Know the signs of CSE. You can find them here: http://www.sussex.police.uk/help-centre/ask-us/child-sexual-exploitation/what-is-child-sexual-exploitation
- www.net-aware.org.uk lists the sites that children and young people are into and what we need to be aware of.
- www.thinkuknow.com has loads of tools and resources for children of all ages, parents, teachers and ways to report concerns.
- Know how to report concerns around CSE. In Sussex you can call the police on 101 and quote 'Operation Kite' and they'll know you're worried about CSE. This isn't for when a crime has been committed. This is for stuff you might have heard or be worried about and you don't know what to do. Eg people, places, cars that concern you because you've seen or heard something that makes you feel uncomfortable. The Police aren't going to leap into action and barge doors down. They'll record it and analyse it alongside all the information they have. It may be an important piece of a puzzle that seems fairly insignificant on its own.
And you can contact me at any time if you have any questions or concerns, as that's my job! Well done for making it to the end of this post!
The #StopCSE social media campaign is using the hashtag #helpinghands and asking people to write and share pledges on their hands. Here's one from a colleague: