Police launch ‘I Didn’t Know’ campaign to tackle child sexual exploitation in Essex

Left to right: Dave Peplow, Cllr Bukky Okunade, PCC Nick Alston, Maria Barnett, Sharon White, DCC Ma

Left to right: Dave Peplow, Cllr Bukky Okunade, PCC Nick Alston, Maria Barnett, Sharon White, DCC Matthew Horne, Siamack Assar, Steve Delman - Credit: Archant

Essex Police has launched a countywide initiative today (March 14) to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation (CSE) and to encourage members of the public to report it.

The ‘I Didn’t Know’ campaign aims to break down some the myths surrounding CSE and has been set up in partnership with Essex, Southend and Thurrock Safeguarding Children Boards.

CSE is described as a form of sexual abuse that involves the manipulation and/or coercion of young people under the age of 18 into sexual activity.

Business owners, in particular, are being encouraged to get involved as research has shown that some of the locations in which perpetrators groom young people include cafes, taxi ranks, shopping centres and fast food outlets.

The concept for the campaign has been inspired by a project designed and created by the Essex Children in Care Council, which aims to support communities understanding of CSE, how to recognise it, and what to do to get help.

Deputy chief constable Matthew Horne said: “Young people can be exposed to exploitation in a huge variety of ways, both online and in person. “They may not see themselves as a victim of CSE and therefore may not always come forward to tell someone. I want everyone in Essex to help me by making sure you understand the dangers of child sexual exploitation and the way that grooming can happen.”

Nick Alston, police and crime commissioner for Essex, said: “I really respect the courage of the young people who’ve contributed to this project, their voices are captured powerfully in the films.

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“I’m also pleased that all the agencies are working together to help raise awareness of the signs of CSE. Partnership work is crucial, and that must include all of us - whether we’re parents, teachers or taxi drivers – looking out for signs of CSE. If you see something that raises your concerns, please report it.”

Visit www.essex.police.uk/cse for more information, and a live web chat about CSE will take place on Thursday March 17 between 5-7pm with members of Essex Police and Essex County Council.