Child sexual exploitation is a crime that can affect any child, anytime, anywhere – regardless of their social or ethnic background.
It involves offenders grooming youngsters and using their power to sexually abuse them. It can take many forms, whether it occurs through a seemingly ‘consensual’ relationship with an older boyfriend, or a young person having sex in return for attention, gifts, alcohol or cigarettes.
Sexual exploitation is child abuse and, although they may not realise it, it puts the young victim at huge risk of damage to their physical, emotional and psychological health.
Many young people who are being abused do not realise they are at risk and will not call for help. They may see themselves as willing participants when in fact their behaviour is anything but consenting.
And, while there is no stereotypical victim of exploitation, there are warning signs in children’s behaviour that may indicate something is wrong – and if you know what you’re looking for, you can take steps to help them.
What signs are there that a child is being sexually exploited?
What are the signs you need to know?
- Has the young person received unexplained gifts or money?
- Do they use their mobile phone secretively?
- Do they have significantly older friends?
- Have they been picked up from home or school by someone you don’t know?
- Are they associating with other young people who are already known to be vulnerable or involved in exploitation?
- Have they started playing truant from school or regularly going missing from home?
- Have they suffered from a sexually-transmitted infection?
- Are they self-harming?
- Has their appearance changed?
And what makes a child more at risk?
- If they come from a chaotic or dysfunctional household
- A lack of friends in the same age group
- Confused about their sexuality
- History of domestic abuse or neglect
- Learning disabilities
- Have come into contact with other exploited youngsters, e.g. at school Cse Posters3
- Have suffered a recent bereavement or loss
- Are homeless or living in residential care, a hostel or bed and breakfast
- Have low self-esteem or confidence
- Young carer
- Live in a gang neighbourhood
This information has been provided by Lancashire Constabulary, you can read more on the Constabulary’s website.
Help and support
If you have been affected or a worried for someone you know, we are here to help, find out more about the support we can offer to anyone affected by grooming and sexual exploitation.