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What is it?

Child sexual exploitation is a form of abuse, which is helpful to think of a course of conduct rather than an isolated incident as it involves a ‘relationship’. However the relationship is based on a deliberate imbalance of power.

The relationship can take several forms and can follow a pattern:

  1. Befriending – where contact is made with a child/young person and then the initial contact introduces the child/young person to one or more older men who pose as friends, cousins, relatives of the initial contact. In this stage the child/young person is groomed into a situation which they come to think is ok but is actually harmful to them. Gifts, alcohol, cigarettes etc can be bestowed upon them. In this stage the child/young person may interpret the behaviour demonstrated towards them by an individual as ‘love’.
  2. Control – in this stage the abuser expects a return on the gifts they have bestowed and will involve sexual favours and the abuser will make threats to gain control over the child/young person. This may involve threats of violence, threats to family members, photographing the child/young person performing sexual activities and threatening to publicise them, involving the child/young person in criminal activities and threatening to report them to the police.
  3. Exploitation – in this stage the abuser builds the alienation the child/young person can experience, distancing them from friends, parents and other support. This leads the child/young person further into the abuse. In this phase the exploitation includes the child earning money to support their need/pay back the gifts and pay back the perpetrators of the abuse.

The child/young person will be significantly affected by this and may not recognise what is happening to them as abuse, or may feel that it is their fault.

Points of contact can be home, school, shopping centres, entertainment arcades, leisure clubs, taxi ranks, bus and train stations and online.

Free Online Training for Parents

Free Online Training for Parents (PACE) – Equip yourself with the knowledge to protect your children against sexual exploitation.

Useful information

Child Sexual Exploitation Poster [PDF 1 Mb]

The different forms of child sexual exploitation can be:

Inappropriate relationships and or boyfriend model

The abuser has power which is either physical, emotional or financial, or control over a young person. The young person may believe they are in a genuine friendship or relationship with the abuser. The abuse can exist in isolation in that the individual perpetrates the abuse or can involve the young person being introduced and abused by other people. The ‘boyfriend’ grooms the victim by striking up a seemingly loving relationship with them, giving them gifts and going out. Victims may be required to attend parties and have sex with multiple men, threatened with violence either to themselves or their loved ones if they don’t. They may also be made to introduce their friends as new victims.

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Online

Technology is widely used by perpetrators as a method of grooming and coercing victims, often through social networking sites and mobile devices (Jago et al, 2011). The abuser grooms the child/young person on line. They may pose as another young person of a similar age or an adult. The abuser may talk to the child via a web cam striking up a relationship, progressing to getting the child/young person to pose or send images of themselves which may progress to naked or semi naked images. These images will be stored and shared with other child abusers. The abuser may then start to pressurise the child/young person and blackmail them by threatening to tell parents or share images. This form of abuse usually occurs in private, or in semi-public places such as parks, cinemas, cafes and hotels. It is increasingly occurring at ‘parties’ organised by perpetrators for the purposes of giving victims drugs and alcohol before sexually abusing them (Barnardo’s, 2012)

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Organised exploitation, gangs and trafficking

Young people can associate with gangs and as a result of their involvement can become involved in offending behaviour and/or sexual exploitation. Sexual violence against females in a gang environment can occur in the following:

  1. Sexually assaulting a young woman associated with a rival gang to disrespect or provoke the gang
  2. Getting females to use their sexuality to set up rival gang males
  3. Sexual assault as a threat or weapon
  4. Sexual assault/abuse as a means of initiation into a gang

Other forms of criminality can occur where victims are trafficked through criminal networks, and forced or coerced into sex with multiple men including groups of men. This is serious organised activity.

The Barnardos Wud U app is an educational tool for teachers and care professionals who interact with young people that might be at risk of sexual exploitation.

The app aims to educate young people about behaviour that could put them at risk of being sexual exploited, through illustrated, interactive stories.

To download the app visit the Barnardos website 

You can report any concerns about Child Sexual Exploitation to Crimestoppers.

You can do this anonymously by calling 0800 555 111or by visiting the Crimstoppers website

Crimestoppers Poster [PDF 1 Mb]

Crimestoppers information [PDF 636 Kb]

It is important that young people understand consent so that they recognise when abuse may have occurred and get help.

It is not easy to tell someone about something which is upsetting, worrying, frightening or where there may be feelings of shame and guilt. However there are people who will listen and help and not judge.

If a young person is worried about a situation that they or a friend are in, they should talk to an adult they can trust as soon as they can. This can be a parent, teacher, support worker,youth worker or a street sport worker. They can also talk to a social worker who will be able to help on 01724 296500.

Young people can call the following helplines:

  • Childline – 0800111
  • The NSPCC Helpline – 0808 800 5000

You can talk to a social worker on 01724 296500.

You can talk to the police urgently on 999 or on Humberside Police 101.

Further information

Barnardos – help and advice

Stop It Now  – helpline

Police – advice, help, report

Child sexual exploitation is very distressing and can be a very difficult form of abuse to recognise.

The following websites offer advice and guidance for parents if they are worried or if their child is suffering this type of abuse:

Pace – parents against child sexual exploitation

CSE training for Parents

Barnardos – what can I do as a parent?

Police – advice, help, report

Childline – information about sexual abuse and how to get help

If you are worried about your child you can talk to the Police or Children’s Services on 01724 296500.

In an emergency call 999

If your child is affected

It is important to stress that most children in the UK do not encounter child sexual exploitation. If however your child is affected, then it is also important to remember:

  • It is not your fault – a child who is sexually exploited outside of their family does not indicate that their parents have neglected them, as all children are vulnerable by virtue of their age
  • You are not alone – many parents have gone through what you are going through and understand your pain

There are a number of common myths about child sexual exploitation that need to be dispelled:

  1. Child sexual exploitation is something that is done to girls and young women – FALSE – There are male victims too. Research suggests that they are fewer in number but the numbers may be under reported.
  2. Child sexual exploitation only happens to children who are in care, who come from a ‘bad’ family or are of a particular race or religion – FALSE – Any child, from anywhere can potentially be a victim. It is true that young people are more vulnerable to becoming sexually exploited as a result of social exclusion, poverty and deprivation.
  3. Child sexual exploitation is rare and only happens in a few places –  FALSE  – It is much more prevalent than most people imagine. But it may often be hidden and can only be uncovered by people being vigilant and reporting their concerns.
  4. A lot of these children are over 16 years and have consented to sex – FALSE – A young person cannot consent to an abusive situation.

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We need to support children and young people to know what healthy relationships are. We need to help them understand consent and what is a healthy or unhealthy relationship. We need to encourage children and young people to talk to a trusted adult if they are worried about a situation.

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If you have any concerns that a child you know may be a victim of Child Sexual Exploitation report it to your local police on 101.

In an emergency or if a crime is ongoing always dial 999.

Hampshire Constabulary has launched a campaign to help people identify the signs of child sexual exploitation. This includes a blog written by 15-year-old ‘Alice’, her friends, family and teachers about how CSE happened to her.

Source: Hampshire Constabulary 25 May 2016
Further information:   Alice’s diary

Recent research by the Office of the Children’s Commissioner identified that young people did not understand consent to sexual activity:

  • A child under 13 is not legally capable of consenting to sexual activity. Any offence under the sexual offences act 2003 involving a child aged under 13 years is very serious. It should be taken to indicate that the child is suffering, or likely to suffer significant harm. It should be reported to the police immediately.
  • Sexual activity with a child aged under 16 is also an offence.

The Sexual Offences Act 2003 states that consent in relation to sexual activity is:

  • A person consents if he or she agrees by choice to the sexual activity and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice

Consent involves three elements:

  1. CHOICE – The test for choice is whether the child or young person felt able to say ‘No’
  2. FREEDOM – Was the child or young person physically free to get away from the situation or were they being held against their will?
  3. CAPACITY – Did the child or young person have the maturity to make the right decision? Do they understand the possible consequences of complying? Were they intoxicated at the time so did not have the capacity to choose? The law not only sets down 16 as the age of consent, it also applies to whether a person has given their consent to sexual activity, or was able to give their consent, or whether sexual violence and rape in particular took place. In the context of child sexual exploitation, the term ‘consent’ refers to whether or not a child understands how one gives consent, withdraws consent and what situations (such as intoxication, duress, violence) can compromise the child or young person’s ability to consent freely to sexual activity

The Triangular Pyramid Net highlights the three elements