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18th March 2015

Solace statement on National CSE Awareness Day

Wednesday 18 March is ‘National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day’. To mark the day, this is a statement from Mark Rogers, Solace President and Chief Executive of Birmingham City Council.

Child Sexual Exploitation is a vicious and deep-rooted strain of sexual abuse which irrevocably damages the lives of children and young people. Tackling this abuse requires a better, more targeted response from public services. It also requires a challenge to the deep-rooted cultural attitudes which underpin it.

Evidence from the Office of the Children’s Commissioner shows this type of abuse is widespread and endemic. At Solace, we have been clear that the policing and justice systems, working with councils and other partners, need to work harder and smarter to prevent abuse, support victims and prosecute offenders. The Society is committed to playing our part in supporting our members to tackle the scourge of Child Sexual Exploitation.

However, we must also challenge the social and cultural attitudes which cause the misunderstanding, condoning or ignoring of the crime of child sexual exploitation. Doing so requires sustained and united local and national leadership, bringing together leaders from across the political spectrum and professionals from across our public services. We need to form an alliance and agree on a campaign that takes root in all our communities. This campaign must challenge and change those stubborn and regressive views that see children as somehow ‘asking for it’ and, consequently, consenting to their own abuse.

National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day is an excellent start to this campaign. It seeks to highlight the issues surrounding Child Sexual Exploitation, encouraging everyone to think, spot and speak out against abuse and adopt a zero tolerance to adults developing inappropriate relationships with children or children developing inappropriate relationships with other children.

As part of the campaign, individuals are being asked to write a personal pledge on their hands, and to tweet a picture of the pledge using #HelpingHands to raise awareness. I have done this myself (see my twitter account here) and would encourage others to do the same.

This crime has been in the shadows for too long. We must expose it, challenge it and eliminate it from our communities.

National Child Sexual Exploitation Day is an initiative of the NWG Network.