Merseyside’s Police Commissioner is marking National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day by releasing a new film promoting the support on offer to all young victims of exploitation in the region.
The four-minute social media film features real-life testimony from young people affected by exploitation, played by actors, and includes interviews with support workers from dedicated support service Catch22.
The social enterprise has been working with Jane Kennedy since 2014 as part of her Victim Care Merseyside service to deliver a dedicated support service for young victims of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) in Merseyside. In 2016, it became the first regional service in the country also offering specialist support to young people who have been criminally exploited and exposed to County Lines.
Will*, 12, was being bullied on social media after becoming involved with a group of older males who had persuaded him to carry their alcohol and drugs. He said: “I was taken into a gang with 18 and 19 year olds and they tried to make me feel like I was their friend when in reality I wasn’t and they were trying to exploit me to do things that they wanted me to do. Before I started working with Catch22, I was feeling a little bit lost and like I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t have somebody to talk to, but now I do.”
National CSE Awareness Day is held annually on March 18th with the aim of encouraging children and young people to stay safe, while also urging parents and carers, members of the public and professionals to more vigilant for the tell-tale warning signs when a young people may be in danger of exploitation.
Jane said: “National CSE Day is an important opportunity for us all to raise awareness of the damage that the sexual exploitation – and exploitation of all types - causes and highlight the potential warning signs of this dreadful crime so that everyone, particularly young people themselves, know what to look out for and how to keep themselves safe.
“We know that exploitation can affect any young person, male or female and from all backgrounds, regardless of social class, sexual orientation, ethnicity or area. We also know that young victims may not recognise that they are being exploited. That’s why it’s so important that people across Merseyside, from all walks of life and from all communities, are alert to the warning signs of exploitation.
“I’m pleased to have been able to work with Catch22 to produce this short film which explains in more detail what exploitation is, the impact it has on young people and the work we are undertaking to raise awareness and care for those who sadly have been targeted for exploitation.
“I would urge anyone who is concerned a young person may be at risk of exploitation to contact Merseyside Police or if you know a child that needs support after exploitation to get in touch with Catch22. They are here to offer specialist intervention and support.”
Catch22’s Child Exploitation and Missing Children Senior Service Coordinator Ellie Fairgrieve said: “Across Merseyside we have been able to deliver one-to-one support to young people who have been affected by child sexual exploitation and child criminal exploitation.
“Not only that, we have been able to provide preventative awareness to thousands of young people in schools, youth clubs and care homes to enable them to spot the signs of exploitation and enable them to know where to go and who to speak if they have any concerns. We also talk to young people about how to protect themselves and how to put safety strategies in place.
“Victim Care Merseyside has made a huge difference to Catch22, enabling us to reach out to a huge amount of young people. Before this, there wasn’t that service that young people could reach out to. We’re very proud to be the first regional service to be delivering this specialist support to young people affected by both sexual and criminal exploitation. I think it’s fantastic we are leading the way.”
The Commissioner and Deputy Police Commissioner, Cllr Emily Spurrell, are also supporting a national campaign which is asking the world to unite against CSE through social media. The #HelpingHands campaign is encouraging everyone to show their support for the day by writing a pledge on their hands and posting it online.
If you suspect a person of carrying out child exploitation, or think someone you know has been a victim, or may be soon, please contact Merseyside Police’s social media desk via Twitter @MerPolCC or Facebook Merseyside Police CC. You can also call non-emergency number, 101, or independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. If someone is in immediate danger of harm, please call 999 now
For support, please contact Catch22 by calling 07764810740 or emailing [email protected]
For more information please visit Catch22, www.VictimCareMerseyside.org or
*Will – all testimony from young people is delivered by actors
Take a look at the film below