Introduction to Child Sexual Exploitation

June 10, 2016 2:00 pm

This is a very short and brief outline looking at Child Sexual Exploitation, there is a lot to say on this topic which cannot be covered in a short blog.  However, I’d like to introduce you to the subject and to give you some guidance in terms of the definition, the types of young people that could be affected and also some pointers in terms of the sort of signs you may see if a child or young person is being sexually exploited.


The first thing that I want to look at is the definition.   At this moment in time there isn’t a legal definition of Child Sexual Exploitation!


Child Sexual Exploitation is when those in a position of power or trust use that power or trust to sexually abuse a young person or child under the age of 16, or 18 in some cases, depending on the vulnerability of that person.  There is a vague definition that does include young people up to the age of 18, but for the most part it’s accepted that Child Sexual Exploitation affects those under the age of 16.


The power that a person has over a young person can come from a number of places.  It can be in the form of their gender, their age, their role in that person’s social group or society, their strength, physical or otherwise, it may come from money or it could be something else completely different that has allowed that person to have that position of power and trust over that young person.


Let’s look at the young people who are most likely to be affected by Child Sexual Exploitation.


I think it’s fair to say that any young person could potentially be affected by Child Sexual Exploitation.  However, there are a number of groups of people who are particularly more likely to be vulnerable to Child Sexual Exploitation and they’re at greater risk.  These young people fall into categories such as

  • they’re homeless,
  • they may be young people or children who have feelings of low self-esteem.
  • There may be children or young people who’ve suffered a recent loss or a recent bereavement and are struggling to cope with that.


In the Press you hear a lot about young people who are in care who have been at risk of Child Sexual Exploitation or have been sexually exploited, and young carers also are at risk of being sexually exploited too.

One of the things you need to remember that can be particularly hard when you’re dealing with such issues is that those that are being sexually exploited don’t necessarily realise that this non-consensual sex or oral sex, this is actually rare and it’s important to remember that the age of consent in the UK, certainly England & Wales is 16.  It’s 16 years of age, so regardless of whether it may appear consensual, when an 18 year old says a 15 year old agreed to have sex, it’s still rape because that child does not have the ability to consent.


Having looked at the imprecise definition and those who are vulnerable to Child Sexual Exploitation, I briefly want to explore the sorts of signs that you might see in a young person that could indicate that Child Sexual Exploitation is taking place.


This is situations such as when a child or young person goes missing for periods of time, or is perpetually returning late and perhaps there’s no real explanation of where they’ve been, what they’re doing, what’s been happening.  The child or young person may be missing school or skipping school or they may be becoming disruptive in class.  They could suddenly start getting unexplained gifts or have new items lying around.  One of the things to watch out for is mobile phones, these gifts appear and they’re not able to provide an explanation for them.  There may be health problems in certain young people; for example, they may start suffering from sexually transmitted infections, mood swings more so than your average hormonal teenager or young person, that would indicate that something isn’t right.  You may even notice that young people and children are starting to use drugs or misuse alcohol.


In summary, we’ve had a very quick look at the definition, which is not legal and somewhat ambiguous.  We have considered those who are vulnerable to Child Sexual Exploitation and the signs you may see that would indicate a young person is being sexually exploited.


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