Child sexual exploitation can happen online as well as offline
This is usually carried out by someone, or a group of people, outside of the family. It is often perpetrated against groups of young people.
They might use gifts, bribes, manipulation, threats, violence and humiliation to take advantage of the young person.
Young people may be introduced to exploiters through friends and getting young people to ‘recruit’ other young people may be a part of the abuse and control.
Young people often won’t recognise that what is happening is abuse. Child sexual exploitation can involve tricking young people into building trust with the exploiter and believing they are in a real and consensual relationship. This is ‘grooming’.
Child sexual exploitation can happen to any child, regardless of gender, race, religion or class.
How can I tell if my child is being exploited?
Every child is different, but there are some warning signs which indicate that a child might be experiencing sexual exploitation. Experts at PACE (Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation) recommend, as a very general rule, that you take action if your child is exhibiting three or more of the following signs:
● Your child may become especially secretive and stop engaging with their usual friends
● They may be associating with, or developing a sexual relationship with, older men and/or women
● They may go missing from home – and be defensive about their location and activities, often returning home late or staying out all night
● They may receive odd calls and messages on their mobiles or social media
● They may be in possession of new, expensive items and can’t explain how they got them
Learn more from PACE about warning signs here.
Is your child going missing?
Children going missing should always be treated with concern; whilst not always the reason, it can be a sign that are being sexually exploited. If your child goes missing it is really important that you report it to the local police. This is just as important when boys go missing as it is for girls.
If you are concerned that their absence might be linked to sexual exploitation then you should make this clear to the police from the start. This will help the police offer you and your family the right support.