One person can have a significant impact in helping a young person who may be at risk, whether this is a peer, parent, carer or member of the local community.
This week sees the start of a campaign which is taking place across Greater Manchester to raise awareness of child exploitation, with local communities being encouraged to consider if they have the knowledge and confidence to ‘Be the Difference’.
The week of action looks to raise awareness of exploitation amongst young people to educate and inform them on the signs to look out for, how to report concerns and how they can support their peers. The activity is also aimed at parents, carers, professionals and community members to help further understand child exploitation, and increase confidence and knowledge of how to support young people who may be at risk.
Wednesday 18 March is the National Child Exploitation (CSE) Awareness Day, so there will be a focus on CSE in line with this throughout the week.
Karen* found inappropriate messages on her 12-year-old daughters phone and is now helping raise awareness to protect other young people.
When Karen told her daughter that she was going to the police, her daughter found it really hard to accept. She said: “My daughter thought that she loved him, and she thought that he loved her. It was hard for her to understand that she had been groomed, that he was using her and he didn’t love her. That was really hard for her to deal with because of how he had reeled her in.”
When asked what advice she would give to other parents, she added: “I know it’s daunting, and I know it’s really scary and hard to accept that your child has gone through something like that, but you need to persevere and you need to stay strong for them.
“You need to just keep reminding them that it’s not their fault - that you love them no matter what, you are always going to be there for them and let them know how proud you are they are doing this because they can help to stop it from happening to someone else.”
Karen* was the difference for her daughter, and together they want to raise awareness of spotting the signs and reassure other people going through this by giving an insight into their experience to help protect other young people.
Assistant Chief Constable Mabs Hussain of Greater Manchester Police said: “Abusing a child is absolutely reprehensible and we will seek to actively target and bring those responsible to justice.
“The exploitation of children is often hidden and not reported which is why we are asking for help from the public, professionals, parents, carers, teachers and anyone else who comes into contact with children to report any concerns that they may have. Something that doesn’t seem to be quite right very often isn’t. We are asking members of the community in Greater Manchester to ‘Be the Difference’ to speak out about anything they suspect may be happening that could harm a child.”
Deputy Mayor of Greater Manchester, Bev Hughes, said: “Every child and young person deserves a childhood that is free from fear and abuse.
“My plea to the people of Greater Manchester is, please, look out for any signs that young people in your life are behaving differently than usual, and if you have concerns don’t be afraid to speak out.”
If you have concerns regarding child sexual exploitation, contact the police directly on 101 or via LiveChat. If you or someone you know is in immediate danger, dial 999 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.
*Name changed to protect the identity of the individuals.