Ahead of Child Exploitation Awareness Day on Saturday 18 March, Islanders are being asked to spot the signs of child exploitation and seek support.
National Child Exploitation Awareness Day aims to highlight the issues surrounding child exploitation and adopt a zero-tolerance approach to adults developing inappropriate relationships with children, and to children exploiting and abusing their peers.
During March, Jersey Youth Service youth workers have been delivering awareness raising sessions in secondary schools. They have spoken to hundreds of children and young people about what child exploitation is, identifying the signs of child exploitation, and who they can speak to if they are concerned.
The Safeguarding Partnership Board will also hold a pop-up stall at Charing Cross on Saturday 18 March between 9am and 4pm. Members of the public can drop in to ask questions and find out more about the support available.
Younger Islanders can also visit the stall to meet Pantosaurus – an NSPCC mascot designed to teach children about body boundaries and consent. Pantosaurus will be available between 12pm and 2pm.
Members of the public are also being encouraged to ask the right questions and spot the signs of child exploitation and abuse. These include:
- New places – Visiting new places where they have no obvious connections
- Online use – A sudden increase in time spent online, or secretive activity
- Injuries – Unexplained cuts, bruises or burns
- Coping mechanisms – Alcohol or drug use, or self-harm could be coping mechanisms
- Possessions – Unexplained new items like clothing, money, phones, or drugs
- Change in friends – Sudden changes in who they are spending time with
- Change in behaviour – Becoming more secretive, fearful, withdrawn or distant
- Change in appearance – Changes in clothing, personal hygiene or talking differently
Any one of these signs could be related to other issues, but they could also be an indicator of sexual abuse or exploitation.
Reports in Jersey are in line with figures from the UK, with three cases per 1000 children and young people being reported to the police each year. UK estimates suggest that only 1 in 8 victims come to the attention of the authorities at the time.
Marking Child Exploitation Awareness Day is part of broader work to protect children and young people from sexual abuse and exploitation. In 2022, the Safeguarding Partnership Board published a new Multi-Agency Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Strategy.
The Strategy was co-produced with government, charity and third sector input, and in consultation with children and young people. It focuses on preventing, investigating and supporting recovery from child sexual abuse and exploitation.
Minister for Children and Education, Deputy Inna Gardiner, said: “Child sexual exploitation is an underreported crime, and one that has a significant impact on children and young people.
“Child Exploitation Awareness Day is about ensuring that more people understand the signs to look for, and how they can get support and help. We will continue to work with the Safeguarding Partnership Board and other partners to protect children and young people.”
Islanders who are concerned for the wellbeing of a child or young person should contact the Children and Families Hub on 01534 519000 or [email protected].
Islanders can also report a concern to the Safeguarding Partnership Board, by clicking the orange button at the top of this page.