Sexual exploitation of children and young people under 18 involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where young people (or a third person or persons) receive ‘something’ (e.g. food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of them performing, and/or another or others performing on them, sexual activities.
Child sexual exploitation can occur through the use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition; for example being persuaded to post sexual images on the Internet/mobile phones without immediate payment or gain. In all cases, those exploiting the child/young person have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and/or economic or other resources. Violence, coercion and intimidation are common, involvement in exploitative relationships being characterised in the main by the child or young person’s limited availability of choice resulting from their social/economic and/or emotional vulnerability
Both girls and boys are at risk of sexual exploitation, and it is seriously harmful to children both emotionally and physically. Children and young people often find it very hard to understand or accept that they are being abused through sexual exploitation, and this increases their risk of being exposed to violent assault and life threatening events by those who abuse them.
What are the signs you need to know?
- Repeatedly going missing-particularly overnight
- Coming home with unaccounted gifts, i.e. clothes, money, food, jewellery, drugs or mobile phone
- Having a relationship with an older partner with whom there may or may not be concerns
- Mood swings and changes in behaviour
- Excessive and secret use of Internet and /or mobile phone (potential grooming)
- Spending more time in their room and was accessing their computer late at night
- Having several SIM cards, frequent mobile phone top ups
- Being unusually secretive
- Losing contact with family and friends of their own age and associating with an older age group
- Unrecognised cars arriving at the home, especially at strange times
- Alcohol/Substance misuse
- Unexplained injuries
- Lacking self-esteem, leading to a change in personal appearance
- Excessive washing or bathing particularly when returning from missing episodes
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
- 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