Posted: 12 September 2013

Say Something if you See Something - A new toolkit to stop child sexual exploitation

Sexual exploitation of children is an abhorrent and despicable crime.It is also often an invisible crime that many would not be able to spot or feel confident reporting. It is also a crime we don’t believe happens where we live or where we go for holidays or entertainment. 

But recent cases of child sexual exploitation in Oxford, Rochdale and Torbay and elsewhere show, this is something that happens all over the country.

To help local businesses – including hotels, take-aways, taxis and leisure centres – to spot the signs of child sexual exploitation and be more confident about reporting these, we launched the Say Something if you See Something campaign toolkit in parliament.

'There is still far more we can do'

The launch was hosted by Nicola Blackwood MP. Damian Green MP, the police minister, was a guest speaker encouraging businesses to sign up to the campaign. We are asking MPs to support the campaign and work with local businesses and raise awareness in their constituencies.

The event was attended by civil servants, police, leaders from hotel chains, workers from the voluntary sector and Maggie Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner for England, who said:

'Although awareness of the signs of child sexual exploitation has increased dramatically among professionals and the public, there is still far more we can do to identify the child victims and perpetrators of this damaging crime. I would urge hotels, restaurants and shops to get hold of the Say Something if you See Something toolkit and to use it to inform their staff. It is only by working together that we can address child abuse.’

What is Say Something if you See Something about?

The campaign started in one of our projects in the West Midlands working with young runaways. Many of the young people talked about ‘going to hotel parties’ when they went missing where older males befriended young people and offered them drugs and alcohol, gave them gifts,  made them believe they were in relationships and then forced young people into sexual exploitation. 

One young person said:

‘They said he fancied me, they said that I should go out with him. It was OK at first – he was dead nice. We used to stop at different hotel rooms – I’d stay out all night. Then suddenly he seemed to change and said he was short of money and said his mate fancied me, so would I go with them, just to pay him back like. He said if I really loved him I would do it for him. What could I do? I was hooked on drugs.’  

Hotel staff were not able to spot the signs and intervene and so the Safe Something if you See Something campaign was born. Developed by the National Working Group and us, in partnership with the police, local businesses and the local council to it aimed to help staff recognise sexual exploitation and know how to respond and report it. The pack can be adapted and used anywhere around the country to help local communities safeguard their young people. 

What's next? 

Safeguarding children and young people is everyone’s business – from a hotel receptionist to a member of parliament, from a government minister to a local taxi driver. 

When children are not able to recognise that they are in an exploitative or dangerous situation, or are scared to disclose abuse, we need adults around them who can spot the signs and have the confidence to do something about it. 

Say Something if you See Something - which is available through the National Working Group - equips local businesses and communities with tools for identifying and responding to children who need protection, so that the next time a predatory individual targets vulnerable young people for sexual exploitation, someone will notice and act.

By Iryna Pona - Policy team