Friday, 26 April 2013


I often wonder whether abbreviating emotive terms dampens their meaning. Weapons of Mass Destruction for example, can kill thousands upon thousands at a stroke but doesn’t sound nearly as menacing when called W.M.D. - these thoughts often stay with me as I'm working our helpline.

On the charity helpline 116 000 we are there for young people at the beginning of risk, the time when they have left their home, be it from the care system, foster or family, a time when they are at their most vulnerable.

Many of the children we help are not street wise and have a very limited awareness of the dangers they face. What may have started out as a great adventure fuelled by wilfulness and bravado, can all too soon descend into a nightmare of fear and vulnerability as the night draws in and with it comes the danger of being on the street or in a park or at the station. It is then that we need them to know that they can call and talk in total confidence to us 24/7, and not the stranger who is walking towards them.

I could quote you facts and I could give you figures that may shock.  What I would rather do is tell the public about what we know a child is feeling when they are being exploited. Fear, loneliness, isolation, intimidation, confusion, and pain that is what is inflicted on children who are being sexually exploited. Rather than its more academic term (CSE), I’ll write that again - children who are being sexually exploited.  This is one of the core issues we’re trying to combat.

There are marked differences between the services we offer compared to police and social services although on most occasions our aim is the same. It can be extremely daunting for a young person to speak to the Police or Social Services – especially when doing so for the first time – and this is where Missing People’s 116 000 helpline number excels by offering a three-way call. This enables us to, by way of the call, hold the hand of the young person whilst they speak with the Officer or Social Worker. It is a simple comfort that is incredibly important in putting the caller at ease thus helping them to explain their situation, in way that they may otherwise have found stressful and confusing.

The advice the Missing People Helplines can offer is specialised and can be tailored to the needs of the young person. This is helped by the fact that we have the time to explore the situations and options that often other services just don’t have. Every facet of the service we offer makes us unique. We are compatible but different, which enables us to work alongside (and separately, where necessary) from the Police and Social Services. This can be highlighted by our confidentiality policy which gives the young person the space to open up as much or as little they want to.

The work we do in its purest form is simple to describe, we aim to verbally carry young and vulnerable people to a place that is safe for them.

As a charity, we know we can do more, we can always do more and with help we will continue to do so.  Education and publicity represent our searchlight and with that light, we can shine it on the shadows, and bring what lurks there into the open. Child sexual exploitation is a clinical sentence for an act that has no boundaries and we need to focus on the problem as it is - real and current.

After this I will always write Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) in full, so that the pain and suffering is clear, as Missing People’s helpline works to its aim to help alleviate as much of this as we possibly can, with no abbreviations.

By Shane,  
Services Supervisor, Missing People

1 comment:

  1. So clearly expressed - and so sad Child Sexual Exploitation has to be written about at all.
    Thanks for all your words and your work Shane.
    Sarah Godwin


Someone is reported missing every 90 seconds in the UK. The Missing Blog aims to give a voice to all those affected by this issue.

Written by families and friends of missing people, supporters working to raise awareness of the cause, and volunteers and staff at the charity Missing People, we hope that this blog will offer a window into the issue of missing.

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Call or text the charity Missing People for free on 116 000, 24/7 if you or anyone you know is affected by a disappearance.