Advice on how to recognise the stages of grooming is available from a regional partnership to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation (CSE).

The regional see me, hear me campaign is encouraging young people and their parents to make themselves aware of how grooming can develop to help safeguard youngsters from this hidden crime.

CSE can affect any child regardless of their gender, social or ethnic background. It is child abuse and can involve 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.

Councillor Val Gibson, City of Wolverhampton Council Cabinet Member for Children and Young People, said: "Child sexual exploitation is a truly horrendous crime and because of the tactics offenders use, young people may not understand they are being groomed.

"We want to raise awareness of how the grooming process develops so they, and the people around them, can spot if they are at risk, and know how to get help.

"Safeguarding children is everyone's business. We all need to increase our awareness so we can play our part in helping to keep youngsters safe.

"Please visit our campaign website Type=links;Linkid=3771;Title=See me, hear me;Target=_blank; for more information and to see what you can do to help protect our children and young people."

Grooming of a young person can take place in stages over a period from a few days to several years. The early stages can mirror the development of a healthy relationship, but the following signs can help people identify the need to get help.

During the initial 'targeting' phase the abuser will look to develop and gain the young person's trust, start befriending them, take an interest in them and give compliments and gifts.

As this develops into 'friendship' forming, they'll make the young person feel special by spending time with them, offering protection, introduce keeping secrets, testing out physical contact and giving gifts and rewards.

Once they've established trust, the groomer then asserts themselves as the boyfriend or girlfriend, attempting to mirror a 'loving relationship'. They will start to establish a sexual relationship, perhaps introduce the young person to clubs, drinks and drugs and begin lowering their inhibitions, such as through showing pornography. The abuser may position themselves as the only one who understands the young person, demonising and isolating them from friends and family who might try and intervene.

As this turns into the 'abusive relationship' stage there is the withdrawal of love and friendship. Threatening behaviour, physical violence and sexual assaults increase and at the same time the young person is isolated from their family.

Information on the stages of grooming can be found at the campaign website. Type=links;Linkid=3771;Title=See me, hear me;Target=_blank; 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.

Nick Page, chief executive of Solihull Council and regional lead for CSE, added: "We want every child to be able to spot exploitation for what it is and, if they find themselves in danger, know it is not their fault.

"By its very nature this form of child abuse is often hidden. Many young people who are affected don't realise they are a victim and will not ask for help.

"We should all make ourselves aware of the signs so we can identify if a young person could be at risk and report any concerns. Visit Type=links;Linkid=3771;Title=See me, hear me;Target=_blank; for more information."

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 Type=links;Linkid=3772;Title=Childline;Target=_blank;.

People can find out more information about child sexual exploitation by visiting Type=links;Linkid=3771;Title=See me, hear me;Target=_blank;

  • released: Monday 3 July, 2017