Gloucestershire Safeguarding Children Board (GSCB) will be holding a conference to highlight child sexual exploitation (CSE) and missing children, with a specific focus on victims being young boys.
GSCB is responsible for co-ordinating the actions of organisations across the county to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in Gloucestershire, and check that what they do is effective.
Over 200 professionals who work with young people are attending the conference, which will involve talks from experts in the field about serious case reviews, the missing children action plan and CSE case studies. There will be a particular focus on raising awareness of victims being young boys, as it is recognised there is a stigma attached to males being victims of CSE.
AlterEgo Creative Solutions will also be performing their show 'Crashing' for the first time - an innovative and powerful production showing how young men as well as young women can fall victim to CSE. It is hoped the play, like their previous play about CSE 'Chelsea's Choice', will be shown in schools in the county. Their performances have already been seen by over 480,000 young people across the UK.
28-year-old Brendan Conway who was jailed for eight years in August 2015, is a recent high profile case involving a male victim. Conway pretended to be 17-years-old and groomed an underage boy from Tetbury online before having sexual activity with him. The incident came to Gloucestershire Constabulary's attention after it was reported by the victim's friend.
GSCB wishes to stress that boys can be victims of child sexual exploitation as well as girls. Communities are being encouraged to recognise the signs of CSE, so that family, friends and teachers of male victims feel informed to come forward and report their concerns. This is an issue which the county is working together on to tackle, in order to safeguard and protect children, both boys and girls.
DS Nigel Hatten, of Gloucestershire Constabulary's CSE investigation team, said: "This conference is a fantastic notion that highlights partnership working at its best.
"It's a great opportunity for us to share information and make the most of each other's areas of expertise.
"We're seeing increased reporting of possible CSE and that is actually encouraging. It is largely down to increased faith in the authorities to investigate it thoroughly and raised awareness in the public domain of how to spot the signs of CSE."
Dave McCallum, GSCB Independent Chair of Gloucestershire Safeguarding Children Board said: "This conference is a great example of how we work together in Gloucestershire to tackle CSE.
"'Crashing' is an integral part of educating our young people about CSE. By highlighting sexual exploitation among young boys, we're hopeful that the performance will help get messages out about the risks, signs and what to do if you or someone you know is being exploited.
"We all have a role in keeping all children safe from harm and local communities are our eyes and ears. If you see something, say something."
More information about CSE and how to spot the signs, can be found on the GSCB website: http://www.gscb.org.uk/article/113263/What-is-child-exploitation
Advice and help specifically aimed at young people can also be found atwww.gloucestershire.respectyourself.info
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