The more you know, the more you see

DC Alison Whitworth has been at Bedfordshire Police since 2003. She spent eight years in CID before moving to CSE, where she enjoys the victim focussed nature of the work.

We want young people to enjoy a childhood free fromThe more you know,the more you see abuse.

That’s the overarching aim of the Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Unit, for which I am a Detective Constable.

We want to bring offenders to justice, but most of all we want to prevent these hideous crimes from being committed in the first place.

CSE is a complex issue. The nature of it means that children can be manipulated and coerced into abusive situations, and are sometimes too frightened to report it for fear of reprisals or not being believed.

It often takes time to build rapport and trust with CSE victims. This is not always easy when the young person doesn’t want to report what has happened. Our intervention is usually at a time where they are experiencing great distress, which can also be problematic.

Many children often don’t realise or acknowledge that they are victims.

They may believe that they are in love, that this is what a normal relationship is like. They don’t realise that they are being abused and raped until further down the line.

Therefore it’s really important that other people are able to spot the signs of CSE – the more you know, the more you see.

The more information we receive from partner agencies and general members of the public, the greater the ability will be to support and protect victims, and disrupt and prosecute offenders.

There are certain vulnerabilities and warning signs to be aware of, and I’d recommend that people take a moment to learn these signs so that they can help identify those at risk.

Once we’ve identified potential victims we can make sure that the appropriate support and protection is put in place.

I have a workload of cases and my role is to ensure young people are safe while identifying and investigating criminal offences. When a young person is referred to the police, I will visit that person and speak with them and their family or carers.

I work closely with social care and these visits are often made with an allocated social worker.

If criminal offences are disclosed, I then interview the victims, witnesses and suspects and embark on the criminal investigation.

Working with partners is vital in successfully tackling CSE so I attend strategy meetings with other organisations in order to plan a multi-agency approach.

I enjoy multi-agency working and ensuring that our shared goal of safeguarding children is realised.

Although dealing with cases of CSE can be fraught with difficulties, it is extremely rewarding to help to ensure that children at risk receive the right support and help them achieve their goals.

To read more about Child Sexual Exploitation visit our joint website.

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