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Nottinghamshire Police reminds adults of their role in the fight against sexual and criminal exploitation of children as today marks National Child Exploitation Awareness Raising Day

Adults are being reminded of the vital role they can play in stopping the sexual and criminal exploitation of children.

As today (March 18) marks the National Child Exploitation Awareness Raising Day, parents, teachers and others in regular contact with young people are being asked to think, spot and speak against sexual and criminal exploitation.

They are being asked to also adopt a zero tolerance approach to both online and face to face exploitation of children.

Child exploitation. Picture provided by Nottinghamshire Police
Child exploitation. Picture provided by Nottinghamshire Police

Nottinghamshire Police has specialist investigation teams aiming to tackle criminals and organised crime groups who exploit children, as well as a dedicated multi agency Child at Risk of Exploitation team working to protect children from exploitation and disrupt perpetrators.

Sexual exploitation is about the imbalance of power, and can often involve the promise of items such as money, vapes, drugs, alcohol and gifts in return for sexual contact or the sharing of indecent images online.

Criminal exploitation which is the use of children to carry drugs or commit other criminal offences is often closely linked.

Detective inspector Dan Evans, of Nottinghamshire Police, said: “The sexual and criminal exploitation of children by adults are horrible crimes that can have a profound long-term impact on victims and their families.

“Our work is not only about bringing offenders to justice; it is also about working with partners to prevent abuse as soon as possible and safeguarding victims from harm.

“However, it is often the case that victims, particularly those who are being sexually exploited, are reluctant to come forward and tell an adult about what is happening to them, often because they don’t see themselves to be victims.

“They may also think they are in a legitimate relationship with an abuser; or that they are communicating on-line with a person of similar age.

“Children who are being criminally exploited may also feel a close bond with an abuser who makes them feel special or valued. This is all part of the grooming process.

“When we add to that mix the natural reluctance of young people to talk about these issues – it is clear how important is for parents, carers, teachers and others to heed the classic warning signs listed above and act on them where necessary.

“By working together we are better able to protect children from harm, so if people out there do have concerns, I want them to remember that we are here to help if necessary.

“Even if people are not 100% sure about what is happening, we would rather know as early as possible so we can intervene if required.”

There is no typical profile for offenders, but victims are typically teenagers who are befriended by older men, in person or via social media.

Officers stress that children from any background can and do fall victim to exploitation.

Adults are being encouraged to pay attention to the following warning signs:

• Becoming especially secretive, particular with electronic devices

• Stopping engaging with their usual friends

• Associating with older men or women

• Going missing from home or care

• Absenteeism from school

• Misuse of drugs or alcohol

• Involvement in offending

• Changes in physical appearance

• Being defensive about their whereabouts and activities

• Receiving odd calls and messages

• Possessing new items they should not be able to afford

• Committing acts of self-harm

John Matravers, Claire Sampson and Detective Chief Inspector Paul Lefford, from the Nottinghamshire and Nottingham City Safeguarding Children Partnership Tackling Child Exploitation Cross Authority Group, added: "Experiencing extra familial harm and exploitation can have a devastating impact on children, their families and the wider community.

“We are committed to providing a way for professionals and agencies to navigate the complexities of these types of harm and work together to protect and support children and young people.

"Working in partnership is critical to reduce child exploitation and protect our communities. All partners understand that anyone under 18 facing these harms, or causing harm to others, must be seen and treated as children and young people first and foremost and our success in tackling child exploitation and extra-familial harm is evaluated against this foundational principle.’’

Anyone concerned about the exploitation of children is adviced to contact the police.

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