As a new campaign is launched to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation in the Harrogate district, the Safer Harrogate District Community Safety Group has issued a parents guide to CSE to secondary schools across the district.
The guide aims to dispel the myth that ‘it won’t happen in Harrogate’ and advise parents on what to look out for.
Inspector Penny Taylor of the Harrogate District CSE Action Group said: “The guide is an important reference point for parents. It dispels some myths about CSE, and gives practical advice to parents on what to do if they suspect their child is in any way being exploited. It’s vital that parents talk to their children about the risks of CSE, and the more information they have to hand, the better.”
CSE Liason officer at North Yorkshire Police, Nicki Dobson said key changes to keep an eye out for include, new gifts, changes in their behaviour, new friendships and skipping school.
The police rely on parents and schools to be aware of the signs of CSE in teenagers.
Ms Dobson said: “Police can’t be around 24/7 so it is in part down to the parents to know how to deal with things.
“It is hard for parents, people say well just don’t let them out of the house but how can you physically stop a 13 or 14 year old?
“We are usually the last to know, and by that point it can be far too late, staff in school and parents are the ones who see their teenagers everyday, they will notice the changes.
“Police usually only find out something is going on when a child is reported missing and that’s when it is too late.”
The Safer Harrogate District Community Safety Group parent’s guide says parents should look out for their children;
- Being secretive or withdrawn
- Being hostile towards others ( including family members )
- Becoming disruptive at school or at home
- Associating or developing new friendships/relationships
- Associating with other sexually exploited children
- Regularly coming home late or going missing from home or school
- Suddenly having a new network of friends
- Being isolated from existing friends & social networks
- Bringing home new mobile phones, jewellery, cash, clothes or other items without a plausible explanation
- Changing the way they dress
- Changing the way they look in appearance – weight gain/loss, no/more make up
- Having physical marks such as bruises on their body
- Becoming involved in crime
- Having unexplained absences from school
- Being involved in manipulative friendships
Practical steps a parent can take;
- Stay alert to changes in your child’s behaviour, or any physical signs of abuse such as bruising
- Be aware of new unexplained gifts or items which come into their possession.
- Be aware of your child staying out late or not coming home.
- Be aware and exercise caution around any older or new friend that your child may have, especially new friendships. Look for “power imbalances” in these relationships. Is the child being manipulated or controlled?
- Make sure that your children know the possible risks of using the internet/social media. Talk to them about privacy settings, apps and sexting
Contacts: Email Nicki Dobson, the CSE Coordinator for the Harrogate District, at Nicki.Dobson@northyorkshire.pnn.police.uk
Anyone wishing to receive a copy of the Parents Guide to CSE should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
The NSPCC helpline is open 24 hours a day on 0808 800 5000 for advice and support. See the Barnardos website for guidance - www.barnardos.org.uk
Report any suspicion to the Police on 999 if the child is in immediate danger, or 101 for non emergency reports.
See www.paceuk.info for the support group, Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation ( PACE).