Youth Connexions hosts launch of ‘Eyes Open’ Campaign at YouthPoint in Watford

10 February 2016

A new campaign has been launched urging young people across Hertfordshire to learn the warning signs of sexual exploitation, so they can protect themselves and their friends from becoming victims.

Eyes Open Launch At Watford

Pictured (l to r in centre) PCSO Sarah Thomas, Councillor Richard Roberts, Halo CSE Co-ordinator Kerry Biggadike and some of the young people at the launch of the campaign

On Tuesday evening (9 February) more than 40 young people kicked off the campaign by learning about the signs of sexual abuse. To show their support some posted eye selfies on their social media timelines using #eyesopen to demonstrate that they understand and can spot the signs.

Child sexual exploitation is not a widespread problem in Hertfordshire, but preventing young people from becoming victims of this crime is a top priority for all partners involved in safeguarding children across the county.

The campaign forms part of HALO, the multi-agency initiative in Hertfordshire for tackling cases of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).

Hertfordshire County Council and Hertfordshire Constabulary, as part of the Herts Safeguarding Children Board, are leading the new campaign, which is targeting secondary school-aged children and young people. The campaign is using Instagram, Twitter and Facebook to highlight the signs of child sexual exploitation, posing questions that could help young people to recognise if it is happening to them. The campaign also highlights where young people can get help and advice – by calling the police on 101, contacting Crimestoppers (to make an anonymous report), visiting www.hertssafeguarding.org.uk or contacting Childline.

Richard Roberts, Cabinet Member for Children’s Services at Hertfordshire County Council, said: “Working with our partners, we are taking every possible step to ensure children in the county are able to grow up in safety. To date, there is no evidence of systematic child sexual exploitation in Hertfordshire, but it would be naïve to assume that it could never happen here. The danger is that young people may not recognise it is happening to them until it is too late, so this campaign will help to raise their awareness of the signs so they can take action quickly if they need to. We urge everyone to be vigilant and to say something if they are suspicious.”

Police and Crime Commissioner David Lloyd said: “In addition to preventative measures an important part of my role in commissioning victims' services is to ensure we have the right service provision of counselling and victim support in place for children who are victims of sexual abuse and exploitation across the county. This second phase of HALO directly speaks to young people via social media and I look forward to seeing the next phase of the campaign in action.”

Secondary school head teachers across Hertfordshire are being asked to get behind the campaign, making sure their students are aware of the signs and also of how to report suspected sexual exploitation.

The signs of child sexual abuse include:

  • keeping secrets
  • being defensive
  • truanting from school
  • receiving unexplained but expensive gifts
  • changing personality or
  • sudden access to drink or drugs.

More information can be found on the campaign’s Instagram page @eyes_open_to_cse or at www.hertssafeguarding.org.uk