Today is Child Exploitation Awareness Day.
Our teams hear from young people and vulnerable adults every day who have experienced or are experiencing exploitation, which could be criminal, sexual or both. Being able to voice and share with someone what is happening is powerful.
We offer a non-judgemental supportive and safe space so that people can begin to explore how they can gain support and how we can safeguard them together with our partner agencies.
The voice of the victim is key in all of this. As is hearing that what is happening to them is not their fault.
Here are seven facts about exploitation – and some links to useful support and information.
- A child or young person may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual. Exploitation never includes consent. People cannot consent to their own abuse. Child exploitation does not always involve physical contact; young people can be exploited online
- Young people often blame themselves if something negative happens. This can lead to them feeling alone, frightened and being vulnerable.
- Parents and carers can and should create boundaries, despite the pressure they may feel to let their child loose online or outside, particularly at night. Parents or carers and their children could consider a mutually agreed ‘contract’. This may cover going out, the use of a phone and appropriate websites.
- Social media can pose risks to children and young people and their physical safety and emotional wellbeing. Particularly when sites are not monitored or moderated effectively. For a parent or carer, it’s about educating a young person in an age appropriate way as soon as they begin to show an interest or begin using social media.
- Young people can be criminally and/or sexually exploited by gangs. They may have become involved in a gang for many different reasons: to belong to something or someone, through peer pressure or because of adverse childhood experiences and trauma.
- Perpetrators target vulnerability, not age or gender, and can easily manipulate young people. A young person can quickly become frightened, isolated and overwhelmed. If a perpetrator knows there is no father or male figure in that young person’s life, for example, they will try and meet that need. Sometimes perpetrators will use other young people as spotters or seekers.
- There are organisations set up to help. CEOP is a law enforcement agency helping keep children and young people safe from sexual abuse and grooming online. Advice on the site is targeted at specific age groups, starting with children as young as five. The ‘thinkuknow’ resources are highly recommended.
Useful resources and further reading
Pace offers emotional support to parents affected by CE through one-to-one telephone support and a national befriender scheme.
Stop It Now! is a child sexual abuse prevention campaign and helpline
We’re part of the charitable organisation, NWG, formed as a UK network of over 14,500 practitioners who disseminate our information down through their services, to professionals working on the issue of child exploitation (CE) and trafficking within the UK
For more from The Thought report on exploitation, click here