Safeguarding Board NI calls for help to lift the lid on child sexual exploitation
The Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI) is today (Monday 30th January) launching a Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness week aimed at increasing awareness of this important issue.
From today, Board members, including PSNI, local Health Trusts, NSPCC and Barnardo’s, will be running a week of social media activity to highlight the threat faced by children in Northern Ireland and raise awareness of the possible signs of child sexual exploitation.
Over the course of the week, the agencies will be posting a variety of messages, videos, clips and images, including messages from some victims of child sexual exploitation, on their social media platforms. We will all be using the hashtag #CSEAwarenessNI and would encourage everyone to get involved.
A new play ‘Crashing’ by Alter Ego Creative Solutions, the company behind ‘Chelsea’s Choice ’, aimed at increasing awareness of the issue amongst young boys, will also be launched this week.
Bernie McNally, Interim Independent Chair of the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland explained: “Child sexual exploitation is a type of sexual abuse where children are coerced and manipulated into some form of sexual activity. Children or young people can be tricked into believing they are in a genuine and loving relationship with a boyfriend or girlfriend.
“They are often given money, gifts, drugs, alcohol or affection to create a dependency on their abuser. Fear of violence if they don’t comply with their abuser’s demands is also a significant factor.
“Sexual exploitation can happen to any young person – whatever their background, age, gender, race or sexuality or wherever they live.
“As those tasked with tackling the issue of sexual exploitation of children, we know the most effective way to do this is via strong multi-agency and partnership working.
“By working together, we can help protect those who are the most vulnerable in our society but it is also vital that the public understand the issue of child sexual exploitation, know the signs to look out for and know where to go for help and over the course of the week, all of the agencies involved will be using their social media platforms to help highlight this very important issue.”
Detective Superintendent Deirdre Bones, from the PSNI’s Public Protection Branch, added: “Child Sexual Exploitation is something that everyone needs to be aware of. It is not a specific criminal offence in itself however it does encompass a range of sexual offences and other forms of serious criminal misconduct.
“Our efforts are very focused on disrupting and prosecuting offenders and protecting those young people at risk of exploitation. This is a very complex issue. Often victims do not recognise that they are being exploited and often confuse exploitation for affection. This is why it is vital that we all know the signs to look out for so that those who are exploited get the help they need and those who are exploiting them can be held to account.”
Sexual exploitation can be very difficult to identify and some warning signs are mistakenly dismissed as 'normal' teenage behaviour. Young people who are being sexually exploited may:
• be intimidated and fearful of certain people or situations
• hang out with groups of older people, or antisocial groups, or with other vulnerable peers
• have older boyfriends or girlfriends
• spend time at places of concern, such as licensed premises, nightclubs or known party houses
• not know where they have been because they have been taken to unfamiliar locations around the country
• go missing regularly from home, or education.
If you or another young person you know is in immediate danger from Child Sexual Exploitation please ring the Police on 999 or 101 in a non-emergency. You can also ring Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
If you have any child protection or child safeguarding concerns, please ring your local Health Trust Gateway team;
Belfast HSC Trust: 028 9050 7000
South Eastern HSC Trust: 0300 1000 300
Northern HSC Trust: 0300 1234 333
Southern HSC Trust: 0800 7837 745
Western HSC Trust: 028 7131 4090
If you have specific concerns about child sexual exploitation or want further information about this issue, you can contact the NSPCC’s 24 hour confidential advice and support helpline on 0800 389 1701.
Barnardo’s has a specialist child sexual exploitation service based in Northern Ireland that you can also contact:
Barnardo’s NI, Safe Choices T: 028 9065 8511
Childline: 0800 1111
Lifeline: 0808 800 8000
Further information and advice is available on the links below: