Signs of abuse

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Would you know what to do if you discovered a child or young person was being sexually exploited? Perhaps you found out they were being manipulated into sexual activity with offers of drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and other presents?

Perhaps the young person felt they ought to have sex because an adult gives them something or because they feel threatened or frightened. Maybe they want to have sex because they think the person is their boyfriend or girlfriend.

The sad truth is that any child, anywhere, can be sexually exploited, regardless of culture, ethnicity, religion or gender. It’s everyone’s business to raise awareness of this and make sure everything possible is done to stop it happening.

It was Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day yesterday, and we want to get the message across that people should ‘say something if you see something’.

Some of the signs to look out for in young people could be:

• staying out overnight;

• being missing from home or skipping school;

• losing contact with family and friends their own age;

• having low self-esteem;

• being secretive about where they’re going.

Young people shouldn’t feel as if they have done anything wrong and people shouldn’t be afraid to speak about this. We are determined to stop this happening, but we need everyone’s support to do this.

More information can be found on the West Sussex Safeguarding Children’s Board website www.westsussexscb.org.uk

To report concerns, people can call the county council’s children’s access point (CAP) on 01403 229900 (9am-5pm Monday–Friday) or email cap@westsussex.gcsx.gov.uk – this is a secure email system which can only be accessed by professionals.

People can contact the police on 101 (or 999 in an emergency). People can also contact Childline on 0800 11 11 or the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000.

Peter Evans, West Sussex County Council cabinet member for children – start of life

The Maples

Ferring

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