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Police ask everyone to look out for the signs of child exploitation

The initiative has been timed to coincide with national Child Exploitation Awareness Day on Friday 18 March.

Northamptonshire Police are asking everyone to be on the look out for signs of child exploitation, including child sexual exploitation, trafficking, modern slavery, and child abuse.

Detective Chief Inspector Johnny Campbell, head of the Child Protection Team said: “Our team has the commitment, focus and dogged determination to bring all those who exploit children to justice, and we will go after anyone who sets out to harm children – but we need help from our communities in order to protect those at risk .

“My officers and staff investigate child sexual offences – both historic and present day, allegations of neglect, physical and mental abuse, exploitation and the serious injury or death of a child.  We will do everything we can to stop the abuse and criminal exploitation of children.

“Children are often too frightened to speak up themselves to either disclose offences or seek support, often due to stigma, prejudice or embarrassment or the fear that they will not be believed, so we need to be their voice.

“Abuse is often hidden in plain sight – the signs are there if we look for them. We need everyone to be thinking about child exploitation, spotting it, and speaking out so we can protect victims, deter sexual predators, and stop those looking to coerce and lead children into a life of crime.”

Any child can be exploited or abused, no matter their background, culture, ethnicity or religion, whether they are a boy or girl.  There are lots of signs to look for.  One sign on its own does not mean someone has been exploited, but several signs together should give you cause for concern.

Spotting the signs

Changes in appearance:

Clothing, personal hygiene, talking differently, tired.

Injuries:

Unexplained bruises, cuts, burns, marks. Reluctance to seek medical attention.

Online:

Spending more time online. Secretive activity, Reluctance to come offline. Have they distanced themselves from family, friends and usual activities? Receiving odd calls and messages.

Change in friends:

Sudden changes in who they are ‘hanging out’ with, including meeting new people from social media. Associating with older men and/or women.

Possessions:

Unexplained items, e.g., new clothing, money, phone, jewellery, drugs.

Change in behaviour:

Have they become unusually secretive, fearful or withdrawn, aggressive or distanced themselves from family and friends or involved in anti-social behaviour?

New places:

Discovering they have been going to new places where they have no obvious connections.

Coping mechanisms:

Alcohol/drug use/self-harm – what they may be doing or using in order to cope.

Missing day or night:

Missing from home or education. Not knowing where they are or who they are with.

If you suspect a person of carrying out child criminal exploitation, or think someone you know has been a victim, or may be soon, visit the Northamptonshire Police website  How to report possible child abuse section or call the non-emergency number, 101. If someone is in immediate danger of harm, please call 999 .

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