A CAMPAIGN to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation in Coventry is under way for the new year.
The See Me, Hear Me campaign will be seen on buses across the West Midlands region to raise the profile of abuse, and help keep children safe.
The number of children in care in Coventry at risk of abuse and neglect has remained stubbornly high at over 600, while the number of children in vulnerable families assigned a child protection plan has soared in the wake of the Daniel Pelka tragedy.
The campaign’s harrowing message is: “Memories last a lifetime… Everyone has memories of their first love, but for some they won’t be happy ones”.
The aim is partly to highlight the horrific crime’s lifelong impact on victims.
Advice on how to spot the warning signs of sexual exploitation in children and young people is featured on the campaign website www.seeme-hearme.org.uk. It also features educational films, and posters to download.
Campaign organisers – including West Midlands councils, police and other agencies – warn CSE can affect any child, anytime, regardless of their social or ethnic background.
Warning signs include having friends who are older, persistently going missing, secretive relationships with unknown adults, truancy from school, chronic fatigue, constant calls on a mobile phone and the possession of money or new things.
The campaign highlights that child abuse can involve perpetrators grooming their victims including via mobiles or online.
It can also exist in a “seemingly consensual relationship”, or a young person being forced to have sex in return for some kind of payment, such as drugs, money, or gifts.
Councillor Ed Ruane, Coventry City Council’s cabinet member for children, welcomed local authorities working jointly together in the battle against CSE.
He said: “Hopefully the campaign will encourage everyone to take responsibility for combating this horrific crime. I hope that it will prompt people to share any information and be more vigilant.”
Stephen Rimmer, West Midlands lead for tackling CSE, said: “Sexual exploitation of children and young people thrives on ignorance, manipulation and vulnerability. No one in the West Midlands should suffer this crime, and the bullies, abusers and perpetrators need to be held to account.
“This campaign will help ensure that we all understand the threat – right here right now – and what to do about it when we see it.”
Anyone who is concerned about a child’s safety should call West Midlands Police on 101, speak in confidence to Barnardo’s on 0121 359 5333 or in an emergency call 999.
Childline also has counsellors available online at www.childline.org.uk