When the time comes for you to help a child who has been subject to child sexual exploitation (CSE) or is at risk of child sexual exploitation, these 55 things will highlight the signs and some of the ways child sexual exploitation can impact the young people you look after.
1. What does Child Sexual Exploitation Mean? The UK government definition of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE): “The 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 performing, and/or others performing on them, sexual activities.
2. Grooming is a phased, gradual process used by perpetrators to sexually exploit children and young people. Typically, grooming involves the following stages.
3. Trafficking is the movement of children and young people into, out of and within the UK and is a form of exploitation.
4. Child sexual exploitation can occur through use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition, for example the persuasion to post sexual images on the internet/mobile phones with no immediate payment or gain.
5. Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is when someone grooms and controls a child for a sexual purpose.
6. CSE can be broadly separated into two areas (i) sexual exploitation through street grooming, and (ii) online sexual exploitation.
7. Sexual exploitation through street grooming can include: Initial contact. • Control. • Befriending. • Exchange of favours. • Exploitation.
8. Research and practice shows certain groups of children and young people are at higher risk of being sexually exploited through street grooming.
9. It can be difficult to identify children and young people who have been or are being sexually exploited.
10. Children who have been sexually exploited by organised crime networks are often fearful for their safety even after being removed from the exploitative situation.
11. Young people may not see themselves as victims. They may believe their abuser is their boyfriend and loves them.
12. In some situations, such as in gangs, there may be the belief that the abuse is normal and a rite of passage.
13. They may be dependent on the things they receive such as money, drugs, alcohol, accommodation.
14. For young people who have a history of offending behaviour or are currently involved with the criminal justice system, there may also be a difficulty in recognising them as a victim and treating their experiences as a child protection issue.
15. A growing number of the young people are being sexually exploited by adults and older young people they met via the internet.
16. The age range of children who are victimised through sexual exploitation has come down in recent years from the 16 – 18 age group, to children under 16 years of age.
17. In some cases, children may be drawn into sexual exploitation by peers who are already involved.
18. Forms of sexual exploitation incorporate sexual, physical and emotional abuse, as well as, in some cases, neglect.
19. Children do not make informed choices to enter or remain in sexual exploitation. Rather, they do so from coercion, enticement, manipulation or desperation.
20. Sexual activity with children under the age of 13 is statutory rape.
21. Sexually exploited children should be treated as victims of abuse, not as offenders. Children under 16 will always be dealt with as actual or potential victims. For young people from 16 to 18 years old, consideration may be given, in very limited circumstances and where all other options have failed, to the use of criminal justice action.
22. Many sexually exploited children have difficulty distinguishing between their own choices around sex and sexuality and the sexual activities they are coerced into. This potential confusion needs to be handled with care and sensitivity.
23. Sexual exploitation incorporates sexual, physical and emotional abuse, as well as, in some cases, neglect.
24. The primary law enforcement effort must be against the coercers and sex abusers, who may be adult, but could also be the child’s peers or young people who are older than the child.
25. Control and manipulation similar to those experienced by victims of domestic violence are experienced by victims of sexual exploitation.
26. Boys and young men can be sexually exploited and their exploitation is often overlooked and underestimated. Sometimes behaviours that indicate sexual grooming or risk of sexual exploitation are interpreted as sexual experimentation or as sexually harmful behaviour.
27. Young people might perceive the perpetrators to be their ‘friends’ or ‘boyfriends’ who are genuinely interested in them and/or in forming a relationship with them.
28. Evidence from the work of specialist agencies working to safeguard children shows that sexual exploitation of children takes place often in privately owned premises and vehicles as a means to avoid identification of such abuse.
29. CSE victims can be trafficked from any part of the world.
30. Many of the CSE indicators may at first glance appear to be normal teenage behaviour. However, dispensing these indicators as such without appropriate assessments puts the child at risk of significant harm.
31. Sexual activity with a child under 16 is an offence.
32. It is an offence for a person to have a sexual relationship with a 16 or 17 year old if they hold a position of trust or authority in relation to them.
33. Where sexual activity with a 16 or 17 year old does not result in an offence being committed, it may still result in harm, or the likelihood of harm being suffered; non consensual sex is rape whatever the age of the victim.
34. Child sexual exploitation is potentially a child protection issue for all children under the age of 18 years and not just those in a specific age group.
35. A significant number of children who are victims of sexual exploitation go missing from home, care and education at some point.
36. Having, making, taking or distributing indecent images of children is a criminal offence.
37. Enticing children for the purpose of sexual activity (for example via chatrooms) is a criminal offence.
38. Writing or having material which contains graphic stories about child sexual abuse and exploitation is a criminal offence.
39. Bullying, harassing or verbally abusing someone because of their sexual orientation, disability, race or religion (known as a hate crime.) is a criminal offence.
40. Research shows that children are more likely to be sexually abused by someone they know, including relatives, family friends and people in positions of trust, than by a stranger.
41. Children often have very confused feelings about being abused by someone they trust to protect them. They may not always realise that what is being done to them is abuse.
42. Children do not always tell about abuse. Children should be taken seriously when they do tell about abuse. Abuse can continue for years, and sometimes into adulthood.
43. Sexual abuse can have very damaging effects on a child, which can last into adulthood. However, for many children the effects may be relatively short-term, depending on the individual child, the nature of the abuse and the help they receive.
44. People who sexually abuse children can go to great lengths to get close to children to gain their trust.
45. Abusers may target only girls or boys, or both sexes; they may prefer children of a particular age or they may be a risk to all children.
46. The internet and mobile phones provide young people with exciting ways to gather information and to communicate with each other. There are two main areas of risk though: unsuitable contacts and unsuitable content.
47. Chat rooms are popular with children and young people but also with abusers looking for victims. Sexual abusers often enter a chat room posing as a child or young person, strike up a relationship with a child and then arrange to meet up with a view to abusing them.
48. The vast majority of internet content is useful and well-intentioned, but it is easy to find information and images that are unsuitable for children. These can include pornography, or material that is violent, racist, inaccurate or harmful in some way.
49. The signs that an adult is using their relationship with a child for sexual reasons may not be obvious.
50. A child’s capacity to consent or her willingness to be involved in sexual activities is irrelevant where exploitation is involved.
51. The age of consent in England and Wales is 16.
52. A child under the age of 13 is not legally capable of consenting to sex (it is statutory rape) or any other type of sexual touching.
53. If the victim is incapacitated through drink or drugs, or the victim or his or her family has been subject to violence or the threat of it, they cannot be considered to have given true consent and therefore offences may have been committed.
54. According to the Sexual Offences Act 2003, Section 74, “A person consents if s/he agrees by choice and has the freedom and capacity to make that choice.”
55. You can take child sexual exploitation training, which is a statutory requirement in any children’s social care or education environment, online today at www.rezume.co.uk/training.
Links & Resources
I wasn’t sure it was normal to watch it. – A quantitative and qualitative examination of the impact of online pornography on the values, attitudes, beliefs and behaviours of children and young people.
Gaps remain in tackling CSE, Ofsted finds – Watchdog reports improvements in cooperation between agencies but says some officials still using victim-blaming language.
Child Sexual Exploitation Online Training – Statutory course for children’s social care professionals and others with an interest in child protection.