Building Stronger Wings
By Tracy Harrison, chief executive of specialist local charity Safe and Sound
Child sexual exploitation (known as CSE) is an issue which has a devastating effect on the lives of the individual young person as well as on their entire families.
Imagine how you would feel if you found out that your son, daughter or grandchild has been groomed, manipulated and then coerced into sexual activity?
Parents and families of the young people that we work with across Derbyshire constantly confide about their deep-seated feelings of guilt and helplessness.
They question why had they not spotted the warning signs and what could they have done to prevent the horrendous crime committed by these evil perpetrators?
Of course, what has happened to their children is not their fault or the fault of the young people.
The blame squarely lies with the perpetrators but the effects of their criminal behaviour deeply affect so many people.
There are however key behaviours that parents and indeed the wider community should be alert to and maybe the warning signs that a young person is being groomed or sexually exploited:
- Frequently going missing from home or school
- Going out late at night and not returning until morning
- Being picked up in cars by unknown adults
- Having a significantly older boyfriend, girlfriend or friend
- Unexplained money, possessions, mobile phone credit or a new mobile phone
- Changes in behaviour, for example becoming secretive or aggressive
- Increased use of mobile phone and/or internet activity
- Involvement in criminal activity
- Regularly going out and drinking alcohol and/or taking drugs
For many years, Safe and Sound has supported young people who are victims of or at risk of CSE but we recognise that more needs to be done to provide specialist help to their families as well.
As well as new programmes to provide even stronger support for children and young people, we need to raise the funds that will enable us to provide the 121 support for the wider family – whether that is for parents, grandparents or siblings.
That is why Safe and Sound has launched the Butterfly Appeal #BuildingStrongerWings which is a year-long programme of activity to raise funds and increase awareness of CSE.
The Butterfly Appeal is inspired by the bravery of the young people that we already work with who have found the strength to come out of a dark place and make changes in their lives that transform their futures.
Our plans range from recycling old mobile phones with profits donated to the appeal to organising special fund raising events from cycling to abseiling challenges.
For more information about Safe and Support can help and how to support the charity’s work in Derbyshire, please visit www.safeandsoundgroup.org and follow on Facebook and Twitter @safeandsoundgroup