A campaign urging people to become more aware of the indicators of child sexual exploitation has been launched across Sheffield, Rotherham and Barnsley.
Spot The Signs is a joint initiative by South Yorkshire Police, authorities including Rotherham Council, the Crown Prosecution Service and the National Working Group, a charity focusing on CSE across the country.
The campaign includes a series of ‘hard-hitting’ posters including pointers on online abuse, absence from school, unexplained gifts and being withdrawn as key signs of abuse.
Launching the initiative in Rotherham today, Assistant Chief Constable Ingrid Lee said: “Sexual abuse of any kind ruins lives, the lives of victims, the lives of families and can leave irreparable scars on communities.
“Its effects remain with a victim for a lifetime; in a child it robs them of their innocence forever.
“The Spot The Signs campaign widens the understanding of what CSE is so that this knowledge can be used to tackle these horrific crimes more effectively.
“The force is using innovative ways to tackle exploitation including having a dedicated officer working with children in care in Doncaster. This is already helping to break down barriers between police and vulnerable young people in care.
“We have also trained staff working in hotels and other accommodation and have had some real success in those staff using their knowledge to spot the signs of someone potentially being exploited and by calling the police have prevented a young person from being abused.
“But we also need the eyes and ears and the support of parents, teachers, carers and young people to help us prevent these crimes.
“The Spot The Signs campaign is intended to increase the awareness of all these groups of people to the signs of sexual exploiation and how to raise their concerns.”
South Yorkshire PCC Alan Billings said: “The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness of CSE across South Yorkshire.
“Since I became PCC child sex exploitation has been a focus, and I’m absolutely determined that we fully understand who those victims are, how many they are, that they are getting the help and suport they need, that those who perpetrated the crimes are brought to justice, and that those people who turned a blind eye, whether police or elsewhere, that they are held to account as well.
“And that lessons are learned from that and police change their approach and their culture. But I think the campaign also understands that CSE isn’t just gangs and grooming and trafficking, it’s also something that can happen within families, that can happen at home and therefore we want to raise awareness of the signs; how you might recognise someone is being abused, and how you might encourage them to report that to other people.
“So the campaign is a series of posters that will appear in libraries, in community centres, doctor’s surgeries, some of it will be digital, and they will learn to recognise those signs. It may be that someone is self-harming, it may be gifts from older people, it may be that they are just looking sad and miserable.
“We’re saying, if you see any of those signs, don’t keep it to yourself, do something about it.
“If you are yourself a young person looking at these posters, you may recognise that something is happening to you, because often victims don’t realise they are victims, and you ought therefore to be encouraged to report this and try and make a difference.”