USING a comic strip and cartoon cat, police are looking at new ways of helping young children report sexual abuse.

Aimed at giving children the confidence to report sexual crimes at an early stage, Durham Police’s Trust and Tell campaign, which will be taught to children as young as five, is being rolled out across schools in County Durham and Darlington from Friday.

Featuring Mittens, the cartoon cat which has become the mascot of the force’s mini police, the comic book is aimed at explaining to young children what sort of behaviour should be reported to an adult.

Paul Goundry, Durham Police’s safeguarding project manager said: “Statistically seven out of eight children don’t report as a child and that abuse is often perpetrated over decades or more.

“The idea of Trust and Tell is to encourage young children to tell a trusted adult to prevent it – for themselves, but also to stop the abuse of others.

“We’ve found the best way of communicating with this age group is through comic books and through other children.”

He added: "If the statistics are right, it means there are dozens of kids we need to reach out to and give them the confidence to tell some-one.

"We know perpetrators often target hundreds of children in the hope of getting their hands on one."

Durham’s mini police and cadets will help teachers deliver age-appropriate awareness sessions, developed with the NSPCC, for pupils aged from five to seven years.

The campaign is part of wider work being done by Durham Police into how it deals with young victims of rape and other sexual abuse.

The force has been given around £750,000 of Home Office funding and has employed a child psychologist, who is working with around 30 youngsters.

It is also hoping to establish a child advocacy centre, based on ones in Canada and the US, which would offer continued support to victims after the conclusion of court proceedings.

Mr Goundry added: “There’s a realisation that successful outcomes for children hasn’t always been convictions.There have been horrendous cases where parents and step-parents have been given 25 years in prison but their children have gone on to kill themselves.

“Agencies might be patting themselves on the back because 25 years in prison is a good outcome for them but it’s not a good outcome for the children.

“We’re leading the way on trialling this on the American and Canadian model.”

The first pupils to take the class on Friday will be from St Godric’s School, in Durham, some of whom attended the launch of the campaign yesterday.

The campaign will be rolled out first among schools taking part in the mini police project and it is hoped will eventually go into all schools in County Durham and Darlington.

Bryan Russell, executive manager of Durham Agency Against Crime, said: “It is such an important message to get out there.

“Young people teaching young people is phenomenally effective and it’s by far the best way to get that message out.”

Schools can access to the training materials by visiting