(L-R) PCCs Ron Hogg, Barry Coppinger and Vera Baird
North East Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) are backing a national campaign to tackle Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).
CSE is a form of sexual abuse that involves the manipulation and/or coercion of young people under the age of 18 into sexual activity.
Today, the world is being asked to unite against the issue as part of National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day. Working under the campaign title #HelpingHands, people have been asked to write a pledge on their hands and show their support for the day by posting a picture of it on social media.
The region’s three PCCs; Northumbria’s Vera Baird, Durham’s Ron Hogg and Barry Coppinger for Cleveland teamed up to say STOP to CSE. Their picture will be shared across social media.
PCC Vera Baird said: "It's incredibly important everyone is aware of CSE and the signs to look our for so victims are given the help and support they need and those responsible for it are brought to the police's attention.
"Safeguarding children is a major element in helping to reduce harm to the most vulnerable in our communities and is a priority for me.
"I've recently supported calls for age-appropriate relationships and sex education to be made a statutory component of the curriculum.
"It's vital young people identify when they are in a situation causing them harm, be it physical, or through coercive or controlling behaviour, recognise that it's completely unacceptable and that they should seek help. They will always be listened to and given the protection they need. This is vital to them having positive relationships in their future lives.
"I will ensure that within Northumbria, we will continue to work with a variety of people and organisations, including schools, parents, carers, social services, charities and local authorities, to identify victims of child sexual exploitation which will in turn lead us to offenders."
PCC Ron Hogg added: “As recent reports around the county show, child sexual exploitation an happen anywhere. In County Durham and Darlington, a range of partner agencies are working together to raise awareness of the campaign.
"As part of this, the public are being encouraged to write their own positive messages on their hands, and share these photos on social media in a bid to stop more young people becoming victims of sexual predators. Advice is also being shared to parents, to help them spot the signs of child sexual exploitation.”
PCC Barry Coppinger said: "Raising awareness of and tackling CSE is an absolute priority for Cleveland Police and our partner organisations and we are working hard to safeguard vulnerable children and young people - and to deliver training and awareness raising among staff and professionals.
"In every local authority across Teesside, we have established groups of professionals which focus on helping and protecting those most at risk of CSE, however tackling CSE is a shared effort and everyone has a responsibility to spot signs of abuse and act to protect the most vulnerable in our communities."
Anyone with any information or concerns is asked to contact police on 101.
Advice and support is also available via Victim Support on 0845 277 0977 or Childline on 0800 1111.
Posted on Wednesday 18th March 2015