Plymouth turns the spotlight on tackling child sexual abuse


Agencies in Plymouth are working together to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation.

We can work together to prevent child sexual abuse. That’s the message from the members of Plymouth’s Safeguarding Children Board ahead of a big conference in the city next week.   A child is sexually abused when they are forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities.   There does not have to be physical contact and it can happen online.

Working together to tackle child sexual abuse is a shared priority for organisations working with children and young people in Plymouth, and one which brings together skills and expertise from all sectors.

The conference will bring together professionals from children’s social care, police, health, education and children’s charities, to make sure there is a continued and joined up focus to tackle child sexual abuse, engaging with the young people who have suffered or are at risk of abuse to help inform development of services.”

The conference takes place on Wednesday 21 March 2018, three days after the National Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Awareness Day on Sunday 18 March. Child Sexual Exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse.

The day organised by national charity NWG Network aims to highlight the issues surrounding CSE; encouraging everyone to think, spot and speak out against abuse and adopt a zero tolerance to adults developing inappropriate relationships with children. They are asking people to write a personal pledge on their hands to help raise awareness of CSE using the hashtags #HelpingHands and #CSEDAY18.

CSE Awareness Day and the conference also coincides with the Department for Education’s Together, we can tackle child abuse campaign which launched on Monday 12 March with a media partnership with LBC Radio and the Huffington Post. The campaign encourages people to look out for the signs of child sexual abuse ABC, which are:

  • Appearance (unusual, unexplained injuries, or consistently poor hygiene,
  • Behaviour (withdrawn, quiet, anxious, disruptive, or self-harming or other sudden changes in behaviour)
  • Communication (talking aggressively, sexual language, or becoming secretive)

If people have concerns, they are encouraged to report it. In Plymouth you can do this by calling 01752 668000 or emailing gateway@plymouth.gov.uk

The DfE is encouraging people to look out for the ABC signs.

Andy Bickley, Independent Chair of the Plymouth Safeguarding Children Board, said: “Tackling child sexual abuse and exploitation is a shared priority for organisations working with children and young people in Plymouth.  We are absolutely committed to making sure there is a greater awareness of child sexual abuse and exploitation across all professionals in the city and we fully support awareness days like these.”

Councillor Terri Beer, Cabinet Member for Children and Young People for Plymouth City Council, said: “We are working with the Safeguarding Children Board and all our partners to raise as much awareness of Child Sexual Exploitation as possible here in Plymouth. It is really important that parents know what to look out for and if they are concerned, how they can report it. We are making sure that tackling Child Sexual Exploitation is a priority for Plymouth City Council and everyone working for children and families in the city.”

Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. It occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator. The victim may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology. Hidden from view, vulnerable young girls and boys are groomed and then abused, leaving them traumatised and scarred for life.

Signs to look out for:

  • Has the young person received unexplained gifts or money?
  • Do they use their mobile phone excessively and/or secretively?
  • Do they have significantly older friends?
  • Have they been picked up from home or school by someone you don’t know?
  • Are they associating with other young people who are already known to be vulnerable or involved in exploitation?
  • Have they started playing truant from school or regularly going missing from home?
  • Have they suffered from a sexually-transmitted infection?
  • Are they self-harming?
  • Has their appearance changed?

More information

You can visit the new web page here: http://www.dc.police.uk/cseawareness

More information on the Department for Education’s Together campaign is available at www.gov.uk/tacklechildabuse or search the hashtag #tackleabusetogether

Partners are holding a safeguarding children conference on 21 March.