The frightening reality of a how abusers can target and groom through online gaming is the focus of a new campaign launched today to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation.
The hard hitting film from the regional see me, hear me partnership focuses on the warning signs of this hidden crime.
Called ‘Gaming with AJ – the warning signs were there’, it follows the story of fictional gaming vlogger AJ, who’s targeted by an abuser.
The perpetrator grooms him online with gaming tips and free gifts to gain AJ’s trust before abusing him.
Short trailers will go out via YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, with the full version available on the campaign website www.seeme-hearme.org.uk
Nick Page, chief executive of Solihull Council and regional CSE lead said:
“Child sexual exploitation can take place in many forms and being aware of the warning signs is vital to tackling this horrific crime.
“Online grooming can affect both boys and girls and can happen through social media, gaming, chatrooms or other online communication. It can take a number of forms and could see young people manipulated into sharing indecent images or agreeing to meet someone wishing to sexually exploit them
“In this fictional story AJ was manipulated through on-line gaming in his own home and later abused and exploited by the man he met.
“It’s so important all young people, and their parents and carers make themselves aware of how to stay safe online as well as respond to risky or dangerous situations.
“I would urge people to check out our website www.seeme-hearme.org.uk to watch the film in full. The site contains a wealth of information about CSE and the warning signs to look out for, as well as signposting people to help and support.”
CSE can affect any child, anytime, regardless of their social or ethnic background. It is child abuse and involves perpetrators grooming their victims in various ways, such as in person, via mobiles or online, to gain their trust before emotionally and sexually abusing them.
Warning signs of CSE include having friends who are older, persistently going missing, secretive relationships with unknown adults, truancy from school, chronic fatigue, constant calls on a mobile phone and the possession of money or new things.
The website is a one-stop shop for information about CSE and how to spot the warning signs, along with help and advice for young people, parents and carers, professionals and schools.
The campaign coincides with national CSE awareness day on Sunday (March 18). Organised by the national charity NWG Network, which is dedicated to helping combat CSE, the day aims to encourage everyone to think, spot and speak out against abuse.
People are asked to write a personal pledge on their hands and then post a photo of it on social media using #HelpingHands. The pledge can be anything, from speaking out, to educating others.
Anyone who is concerned about the safety of a young person should call West Midlands Police on 101, speak in confidence to Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or in an emergency call 999.
Childline also have counsellors available online at www.childline.org.uk
People can find out more information about child sexual exploitation by visiting www.seeme-hearme.org.uk
Notes to editors
The See Me, Hear Me campaign was launched in June 2014 by Dudley, Wolverhampton, Sandwell, Walsall, Coventry, Birmingham and Solihull councils, along with West Midlands Police, to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation.
The campaign recently received national recognition and a Bronze Award at the Public Sector Excellence awards for its 2016/17 campaign.