Sexual exploitation affects thousands of children and young people across the UK every year. As a parent or carer, you could have an important role to play in protecting children from this horrific form of child abuse.
Sexual exploitation is a form of sexual abuse, in which a young person is manipulated or forced into taking part in a sexual act. This could be as part of what seems to be a consensual relationship, or it could be in return for attention, affection, money, drugs, alcohol or somewhere to stay.
The young person may think that their abuser is their friend, boyfriend or girlfriend, but the abuser will put them into dangerous situations, forcing the child or young person to do things that they don't want to do. The abuser could threaten them or be violent towards them.
Spotting the signs
The signs can be very difficult to identify, young people who are being sexually exploited may:
- be involved in abusive relationships, intimidated and fearful of certain people or situations
- hang out with groups of older people, or anti-social groups, or with other vulnerable peers
- associate with other young people involved in sexual exploitation
- get involved in gangs, gang fights, gang membership
- have older boyfriends or girlfriends
- spend time at places of concern, such as hotels or known brothels
- not know where they are, because they have been moved around the country
- go missing from home, care or education.
What is 'grooming'?
The process known as 'grooming' is designed to isolate the child, break down the relationship with parents, carers and friends and so make the child easier to manipulate.
Signs of 'grooming' can be hard to spot. Children may:
- be very secretive, including about what they are doing online
- have money, cigarettes and new things such as clothes or mobile phones that they can't or won't explain
- go to unusual places to meet friends
- have access to drugs and alcohol.
In older children, signs of grooming can easily be mistaken for 'normal' teenage behaviour, but you may notice unexplained changes in behaviour or personality, or inappropriate sexual behaviour for their age.
Download the 'Tackling CSE Toolkit' for parents and carers
NSCB has produced a 'toolkit' to help parents and carers recognise Child Sexual Exploitation and provide them with practical advice on how to keep their children safe.
The toolkit is a document divided into chapters. For parents and carers, we recommend reading chapter 1 and chapter 8 of the toolkit, these can be downloaded below:
Tackling CSE Toolkit Chapter 1 - What is CSE and what do I need to know?
This chapter includes;
- Definition of Child Sexual Exploitation
- Description of the 'Grooming Processes'
- Behavioural and psychological signs of abuse
- CSE and The Law
- CSE and boys / young men
- CSE and online grooming
- CSE and relation to missing children, mental health and the effect on the family
Tackling CSE Toolkit Chapter 8 - Information for parents and carers
This chapter includes:
- Your child and the internet (including internet use agreements that you and your child can use at home)
- Parents/carers role in addressing the risk of CSE
- Helping young people to understand 'consent'
- Sexual Offences Act 2013 - understand what the law says about consent and the age of a child or young person
- Resources for parents and carers
Parents and carers may also find the section aimed at children and young people useful:
Chapter 9 - CSE information for children and young people
Or download Barnardo's short leaflet for parents and carers about child sexual exploitation.
More help and resources for parents and carers:
Call or text 116 000 - young people's CSE helpline
This is a new national helpline for young people to call or text if they have concerns for themselves or a friend about child sexual exploitation: 116 000. It's free, anonymous and open 24 hours, 365 days per year.
The following links could also help you:
NSCB is currently running a campaign with Northamptonshire Police to raise awareness about CSE locally.
Could this be you or a friend?
- Do you stay out overnight?
- Have you been missing from home?
- Do you miss school?
- Does a grown-up outside your family give you money, clothes, jewellery, a mobile phone or other presents?
- Do you have an older boyfriend or girlfriend?
- Do you take drugs or drink alcohol?
- Are you losing touch with your family or friends?
- Do you hate yourself sometimes?
- Are you secretive about where you go and who you see?
- Do you chat to people on line your have never met?
If this sounds like your life, or if you are worried about a friend, you or your friend could be at risk of child sexual exploitation by older adults.
Taking risks is part of growing up, but sometimes young people get out of their depth and need some help.
You have a right to feel safe at all times reach out for help - don’t suffer in silence.
Who should you tell?
Services in Northamptonshire are ready to help - if something is happening to you, say something:
- tell a friend who you know will tell a teacher or other useful adult
- tell an adult
- text or ring 116 000 - it's free, anonymous and open 24/7 - you can get advice or help for you or someone you know
- ring 101 and report it to the police
- ring the RISE team on 01604 888345 or email them firstname.lastname@example.org
So what is Child Sexual Exploitation?
Someone taking advantage of you sexually, for their own benefit. Through threats, bribes, violence, humiliation, or by telling you that they love you, they will have the power to get you to do sexual things for their own, or other people’s benefit or enjoyment (including touching or kissing private parts, sex, taking sexual photos.)
(NWG Network, 2008)
So how does it happen?
We know from experience that some adults draw young people just like you into sexual relationships. They are not really your friends.
This is how it works:
- older adults are nice to you
- they show you a lot of interest and affection at the beginning, and make you feel special
- sometimes they ask groups of young people to come back to their house with older adults
- they offer you drugs and alcohol and a place to chill out
- they may even buy you presents like clothes, a mobile phone, even give you money to buy things like cigarettes
- when they have gained your trust and affection they may change how they act around you
- they will ask for sex or sexual touching for themselves or other people, in return for alcohol, drugs, presents, money; all the things they gave you for free a while ago
- they stop being nice and become threatening and violent
What can I do?
YOU ARE NOT TO BLAME IF THIS IS HAPPENING TO YOU.
The adults who have taken advantage of you are responsible and they are the people who have done something wrong. They might have told you it is your fault and you will get into trouble but that is just a lie to frighten you.
If you are worried about yourself or another young person you should talk to an adult straight away. In Northamptonshire we have a special team called RISE who are there to help you. All the adults in Northamptonshire who work for schools, health, education and youth groups have received information on child sexual exploitation so they can make sure you get the help you need.
So take that first step and tell an adult or call/text 116 000, the free, anonymous helpline, open 24/7.