Are your relationships safe?
Think about your relationships; friendships, boyfriend or girlfriend, or groups of friends that you either know from school, college or the area where you live. As we get older, we develop relationships with lots of different people. Each relationship will be different, some will be healthy and will make you feel good about yourself, whilst others can go wrong along the way and may make you feel uncomfortable, unhappy or scared.
It’s a trust thing…
At times, it can be difficult to know who you can trust. Sometimes, people might want to take advantage of you and ask you to do sexual things and you might find yourself in dangerous situations without even realising it… this is called child sexual exploitation (CSE) and it’s not okay for this to happen to a young person. In fact it is abuse and young people have the right to be safe from it.
CSE can happen to anyone, regardless of their gender, age or background, so it’s important that you are aware of the warning signs of CSE, so that you can be careful who you trust, and can recognise if someone is trying to exploit you.
Grooming… do you know the signs?
You may have become close friends with someone either from school or your community, or perhaps a person who you have met on line. It is important to think about how they behave and whether they may be trying to gain your trust so they can trick or manipulate you into sexual activity, either with them, or with other people.
They might try to isolate you from your friends, family and support network, so that you are alone and vulnerable. They could force you to do things that you don’t want to do with them, or with other people that they know. They might ask for sexual favours for themselves, and/or other people in return for the gifts they were giving you for nothing before
Signs that a person might be trying to groom you can be:
- They may make you feel special about yourself and shows you a lot of interest.
- They may offer you gifts like money, clothes, a mobile phone
- They might try to involve you in things that seem exciting such as using alcohol or drugs, going to parties or taking you to new places
- They might introduce you to other adults
- They may offer you a place to chill at or spend the night.
- They might make you feel that they understand you and are they only person you can depend on
How will I know if somebody I care about is being exploited?
There are times when we worry about our friends and what they might be getting involved in. It is important that friends look out for each other as often they can be amongst the first people to notice if something isn’t right. There are some warning signs to look out for in your friends:
- They may being going missing or running away from home
- They are being secretive about where they have been and who they have been with
- They are bunking off school or college
- They have older friends, boyfriends or girlfriends
- They spending less time with their family and friends
- They have new expensive possessions without explanation like a mobile phone, or being giving money or clothes
- They are using drugs or alcohol
- They have mood swings that are out of character
- They talk about harming themselves in some way
- They have unexplained injuries
- They keep having STI’s or unwanted pregnancies
- You are worried they are being controlled, threatened or intimidated by somebody
How can I get help?
If you are worried that you, or someone you know is at immediate risk, the first thing you should do is contact the police on 999. If you have general worries about your own, or somebody else’s situation contact MASH, (Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub) on: 0345 155 1071 or email email@example.com in Devon and give as much information as you can.
Other support services
Childline: 0800 1111
#saysomething: home of the 116 000 text/phone number to report or discuss CSE – it’s free and anonymous
Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP)
Devon County Council, out of hours Social Care helpline: 0845 000388
Devon Youth Service: Click here to find your local centre
Disrespect Nobody: Information about keeping your relationship safe
GUM Services: Sexual health clinics across Devon
Missing Kids UK: 116 000 – a free phone and free text number for young people, parents and carers for advice before, during or after running away.
Think You Know: advice from CEOP about staying safe online
Y-SMART: young people’s drug and alcohol services, call 0800 121 4751 (Freephone) or 01271 38816
Reducing Exploitation and Absence from Care or Home (REACH) is a specialist service which supports young people who either run away or who are experiencing or at risk of CSE. The REACH team employs specialist youth workers and social workers who work alongside other professionals providing support, education and guidance.
REACH practitioners work in a range of community settings on a one-to-one basis providing interventions which prevent further abuse and reduce risk. They spend time with young people talking about things that worry them, work at the young person’s pace, recognising that CSE is a difficult subject. For more information about the REACH team click here.
Remember, CSE can happen to anyone.
For more guidance and information about who you can talk to, have a look at this leaflet.
This video by the West Yorkshire Police tells one girls story – remember, if you are concerned and would like to speak to someone, you can call ChildLine on 0800 1111 or call/text 116 000.
These pages might also be useful;