One Education is taking part in the Child Sexual Awareness Day #HelpingHands
There are several definitions of child sexual exploitation which has led to confusion amongst professionals working with children and families. The government have just closed their consultation on the new definition of CSE.
What is Child Sexual Exploitation?
‘Child sexual exploitation is a form of child abuse. It occurs where anyone under the age of 18 is persuaded, coerced or forced into sexual activity in exchange for, amongst other things, money, drugs/alcohol, gifts, affection or status. Consent is irrelevant, even where a child may believe they are engaging in sexual activity with the person who is exploiting them. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact and may occur online.’ Consultation on a new child sexual exploitation definition, gov.uk
The government intend to introduce this from 1st April 2016, and plan to include it in the Working together to safeguard children statutory guidance.
Effects of CSE
Victims of child sexual exploitation can suffer horrendous sexual, physical and emotional abuse. What is common amongst all forms of child sexual exploitation is the rarity for young people to disclose what is happening to them.
The office of the children’s commissioner reports that over 2,400 children were victims of sexual exploitation in gangs and groups from August 2010 to October 2011. The serious organised crime agency and UK human trafficking centre report that 152 children were trafficked for sexual exploitation in 2013, and 79 of those were aged between 12 and 15 years old. It’s anticipated that the figures reported are a huge under estimation of the actual prevalence of child sexual exploitation.
The outcomes for children who have been sexually exploited can be devastating and can have long term effects on young people’s social integration and economic wellbeing. Some of the difficulties faced by victims include isolation from family and friends, teenage parenthood, failing examinations or dropping out of education altogether, unemployment, mental health problems, suicide attempts, alcohol and drug addiction, aggressive behaviour, and criminal activity. (PACE, 2013; Safe and Sound, 2013; Berelowitz, 2012)
Perpetrators of child sexual exploitation pray on vulnerable children and young people, and professionals have a duty to protect them. Unfortunately, sexual exploitation can be very difficult to identify and warning signs can easily be mistaken for 'normal' teenage behaviour.
What are the signs and indicators of CSE?
The London Child Sexual Exploitation Operating Protocol 2nd edition 2015 uses the following acronym to support agencies in identifying the signs and indicators of child sexual exploitation:
Sexual health and behaviour, such as evidence of sexually transmitted infections, inappropriate sexualised behaviour or pregnancy. The young person concerned may have an older boyfriend or girlfriend or spend time at places of concern such as hotels or known brothels.
Absence from school or repeatedly running away puts young people at risk of abuse and child sexual exploitation.
Familial abuse can make young people more vulnerable to child sexual exploitation. Familial abuse may include sexual abuse, physical abuse, emotional abuse, neglect, as well as the risk of forced marriage or honour-based violence, domestic violence, substance misuse, parental mental health concerns, parental criminality, experience of homelessness, or living in a care home or temporary accommodation.
Emotional and physical condition which includes thoughts of, or attempted, suicide or self-harming, low self-esteem or self-confidence, problems relating to sexual orientation, learning difficulties or poor mental health, unexplained injuries or changes in physical appearance.
Gangs, older age groups and involvement in crime which includes direct involvement with gang members or living in a gang-afflicted community, involvement with older individuals or lacking friends from the same age group, or contact with other individuals who are sexually exploited.
Use of technology and sexual bullying, evidence of ‘sexting’, sexualised communication online or problematic use of the internet and social networking sites.
Alcohol and drug misuse.
Receipt of unexplained gifts or money including phone credit, clothes and money.
Distrust of authority figures and resistance to communicating with parents, carers, teachers, social services, health, police and others.
With regard to sexual exploitation online, Barnardo’s highlight that certain groups such as young people with learning disabilities, mental health problems and those exploring their sexual orientation appear to be particularly vulnerable to online harm.
What can schools do to prevent Child Sexual Exploitation?
It is essential that all professionals working with children and young people have regular and up to date training on child sexual exploitation and e-safety, to enable them to understand the signs and indicators of child sexual exploitation and how to make a referral. School child protection and e-safety policies should be regularly updated to reflect any changes.
Schools should have an understanding of the context of their area including any known geographical hotspots renowned for child sexual exploitation such as cafes, food outlets, parks etc.
Sex education should be disseminated throughout the curriculum to enable pupils to understand what a healthy and safe relationship looks like, where to go for support and know who they can talk to if they should have any concerns. Additionally, young people should also be informed what to do if they suspect a friend or peer is at risk of child sexual exploitation. It is also good practice to offer awareness sessions to parents on how they can recognise the signs and indicators of child sexual exploitation, known hotspots, how to report and where to go for help.
Where do I report CSE?
- If a child is in immediate danger call 999.
- Your Local Social Care Team
- For online grooming file a report at www.ceop.police.uk
- If a child or young person you know would like to speak to a trained counsellor, please contact Childline on 0800 1111