Sexual exploitation is a form of abuse where young people are forced or manipulated into sexual activity. The abuser may groom the young person into trusting them – this can be done face-to-face or online – they then exploit this trust for their own gain. Child sexual exploitation can take many forms and victims and criminals can be from any social or ethnic background.
Sometimes criminals may get the young person to engage in sexual activity by giving them attention, treats, alcohol, drugs or a place to stay; sometimes they may manipulate the young person into believing they are in a consensual relationship and that they love them. Either way, the young person is being taken advantage of through this controlling behaviour. It is child abuse and the victims face huge risks to their physical,emotional and psychological health.
Types of CSE
Criminals target young people in may different ways. Here are some of the most common for young people and parents to be aware of.
'He's my boyfriend...' Initial contact may take many forms. It could be someone the young person knows or it could be a chance meeting. Very often initial contact takes place online via social media, or in a chat-room. The offender exploits the young person's vulnerabilities. He or she might start complimenting them on their appearance and listening to their problems. If this develops into an actual meeting, the offender may continue to groom the young person by showering them with gifts, attention and affection. Very often the victim believes they are in a loving relationship and that the adult is their boyfriend or girlfriend. Once this level of trust has been gained the offender may manipulate the young person into a sexual relationship with intimidation, threats, violence and sometimes the use of drugs and alcohol.
Free drink and drugs... Lone adults or groups of adults may offer young people free drink, drugs and cigarettes. This may appeal to the victim as they feel like they are being treated like a grown up. The adult may take advantage of young people when they are under the influence of drink and drugs and inhibitions are lowered – leaving them vulnerable. This can develop into drink and drugs being offered in exchange for sexual favours later. Again intimidation, threats and violence may feature in this scenario.
He takes me to parties... Lone adults or groups of adults may invite young people to house parties with older adults. Again this may appeal as the victim feels like they are being treated as an adult. The offenders may offer young people drugs and alcohol and then take advantage of them while they are under the influence
Spot the signs of CSE
These are some signs to look out for in young people, some or all can be indicators that abuse is taking place
- Is the young person regularly missing from home or care?
- Do they have physical injuries?
- Are they taking drugs or misusing alcohol?
- Are they estranged from their family?
- Have they had repeated sexually transmitted infections or pregnancies?
- Are they regularly absent from school?
- Have they received gifts from unknown sources?
- Are they self harming?
- Are they experiencing mental health problems?
- Have they attempted suicide?
- Is there evidence of online abuse through the internet and social networking sites?
- Are they trying to coax friends into exploitative situations?
What can I do about CSE as a parent or carer?
Here are a few tips for parents and carers to reduce the risk for the children in your care.
- Discuss the difference between healthy and unhealthy relationships with your children.
- Talk to them about the lifestyle choices they make in terms of sex, drugs and alcohol – discuss the implications of those choices
- Put measures in place to minimise online risks (visit the CEOP website for more information). Monitor what they are doing online and talk to them about the dangers of sharing too much information and building relationships with strangers.
- Be cautious of older friends your child may have. If you have any concerns call us to discuss them.
- Be aware of new, unexplained gifts or possessions and carefully monitor any instances of staying out late or not returning home
- Stay alert to changes in behaviour or any physical signs of abuse such as bruising. Look through our 'spot the signs of CSE' section above for more..
Report suspicious CSE activity
Don’t shy away from reporting suspicious behaviour and don’t worry about wasting our time – we want to know about your concerns – look out for the following
- Adults regularly in the company of young people who are not relatives and where it just seems a bit odd.
- Instances where young people are attending adult parties.
- Adults who have regular visits from young people to their home and there does not seem to be an obvious reason for it.
- Adults checking into hotels and B&Bs with young people who are not relatives.
- Adults seemingly in consensual relationships with people who may be underage.
- Drivers pulling over to talk to youngsters in the street.