An event to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation is taking place today (Monday).

The conference will look at how to identify signs of possible abuse and how public services are working together to tackle it.

Muslim Women’s Network UK, West Midlands Police and Dudley, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Walsall, Coventry, Birmingham and Solihull councils are hosting the conference called Tackling CSE: Our Collective Commitment.

It will take place at Birmingham Council House on Monday 20 October.

Police, local councils, charities, community groups and the West Midlands Chief Crown Prosecutor will talk about the steps being taken to protect children and how we can all play a part.

Muslim Women’s Network UK will also launch a new education film, aimed particularly at Asian girls, to raise awareness of the risks and encourage communities in taking a stand against abuse.

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a crime that can affect any child, anytime, regardless of their social or ethnic background. It is child abuse and involves perpetrators grooming their victims in various ways, such as in person, via mobiles or online, to gain their trust before emotionally and sexually abusing them.

It can take place in many forms, whether through a seemingly consensual relationship, or a young person being forced to have sex in return for some kind of payment, such as drugs, money, gifts or even protection and affection.

Chair of Muslim Women’s Network UK, Shaista Gohir, said: “According to our research, front line agencies and Asian communities have little understanding about Asian victims of sexual exploitation.  We have therefore produced an information booklet and a video highlighting a real life case study of an Asian female victim.  There can be a tendency amongst Asian communities to prioritise protection of honour over safeguarding of vulnerable girls. We hope our campaign helps to change these attitudes.”

Stephen Rimmer, West Midlands lead for tackling CSE, said: “We face a real and present threat of child sexual exploitation across the West Midlands, as does the rest of the country. This is a particularly challenging, as well as horrible, crime because the predators abusing our young people manipulate vulnerable emotions and feelings to get what they want. We are getting better at identifying those girls and boys at most serious risk of harm – at least 210 were identified in the first half of this year across the West Midlands – and we are working together across all agencies to much greater effect. We have a long term campaign – ‘See me, hear me’ – which will raise public awareness further.

“We now need to ensure that our work to pursue and prosecute where appropriate, offenders who exploit vulnerable young people is relentless in its impact. There is no hiding place for anyone in the West Midlands abusing their position or status to target young people.”

Yvonne Mosquito, West Midlands Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner, said: 

 “Communities are understandably anxious about the threat posed by child sexual exploitation. Parents worry constantly about what is happening to their children online. Young people themselves feel pressured into being ‘popular’ or ‘respected’ and get caught up in risky situations. Tackling CSE demands a totally joined up response from all the agencies.  West Midlands Police has had the full support of the Police and Crime Commissioner in investing more in resources in this area to help police to track down the perpetrators.  There will also be an overarching aim to lead the action against attitudes that breed abusive behaviour, including through funding an awareness raising film for the first time for the young Asian male, as this group have not previously had resources designed for them.”

Anyone who is concerned about the safety of a young person can call West Midlands Police on 101, speak in confidence to Barnardo’s on 0121 3595333 or in an emergency call 999.
Childline also has counsellors available online at www.childline.org.uk
People can find out more information about child sexual exploitation by visiting www.seeme-hearme.org.

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