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Child Sexual Exploitation

Child sexual exploitation – advice for children and young people

Child sexual exploitation – a definition

Sexual exploitation of children and young people is a form of sexual abuse.

Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation: Supplementary Guidance to Working Together to Safeguard Children defines sexual exploitation of children and young people under 18 as involving:

“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 them performing, and/or another or others performing on them, sexual activities. Child sexual exploitation can occur through the use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition; for example being persuaded to post sexual images on the Internet/mobile phones without immediate payment or gain. In all cases, those exploiting the child/young person have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and/or economic or other resources. Violence, coercion and intimidation are common, involvement in exploitative relationships being characterised in the main by the child or young person’s limited availability of choice resulting from their social/economic and/or emotional vulnerability”(page 9).

Perpetrators of child sexual exploitation are found in all parts of the country and are not restricted to particular ethnic groups or gender. Victims of child sexual exploitation can be boys and young men as well as girls and young women; they could be from any background, ethnicity, ability, sexuality or age.

Forms of child sexual exploitation

In child sexual exploitation there is an imbalance of power within the relationship – “the perpetrator always holds some kind of power over the victim, increasing the dependence of the victim as the exploitative relationship develops” (Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation, 2009, page 17).

Child sexual exploitation can take many forms, including (but not limited to):

  • Seemingly ‘consensual’ relationships where sex is exchanged for attention, affection, accommodation or gifts, including drugs and alcohol
  • Organised networks of perpetrators who may use younger men, women, boys or girls to build initial relationships and introduce other young people to the network
  • Unwanted pressure from peers to have sex or sexual bullying by peers, including cyber bullying
  • Threatening behaviour by gangs to coerce young people into sexual activities which is then used against them as a form of extortion and to keep them compliant
  • Grooming through casual social relationships formed at common meeting places or parties where drugs and alcohol are involved
  • Being introduced to perpetrators by children and young people who are themselves victims of sexual exploitation
  • Online grooming; this could involve an adult pretending to be a child and befriending the child through internet chat rooms, social networking sites, email or mobile telephone messaging, and
  • Targeting young people through their parents or carers by providing drugs, alcohol or money to the parents or carers; this can often mean that the perpetrator is trusted and seen as a potential boyfriend or girlfriend by the family.

Sexual exploitation can cause significant damage to children’s physical and mental health. Some young people may be supported to recover, but others may suffer serious life-long harm. Sexual exploitation has links to other types of crime, including:

  • Child trafficking (into, out of or within the UK)
  • Domestic abuse
  • Sexual violence in intimate relationships
  • Grooming, both online and offline
  • Abusive images of children and their distribution (organised abuse)
  • Organised sexual abuse of children
  • Drug-related offences (dealing, consuming and cultivating)
  • Gang-related activity. In association with the University of Bedford, young people have made four short films on gang associated sexual exploitation and violence for their peers, professionals and policy makers that you may find useful.
  • Immigration-related offences, and
  • Domestic servitude.

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What are the signs that may indicate a child is being sexually exploited?

1) Indicators of child sexual exploitation

Frontline practitioners from voluntary and statutory sector organisations, including health and education, should be aware of the key indicators of children being sexually exploited which can include (but is not limited to):

  • Going missing for periods of time or regularly coming home late
  • Regularly missing school or not taking part in education
  • Coming home with unexplained gifts or new possessions (often new mobile phones or SIM cards)
  • Socialising with groups of older people, anti-social groups and other vulnerable young people
  • Having older boyfriends or girlfriends
  • Suffering from sexually transmitted infections
  • Displaying inappropriate sexualised behaviour
  • Unexplained mood swings or changes in emotional wellbeing
  • Self-harming or eating disorders
  • Injuries from physical assault, physical restraint or sexual assault, and
  • Drug or alcohol misuse.

Practitioners should be aware that many children and young people who are victims of sexual exploitation do not recognise themselves as such.

2) Consent and age

In assessing whether a child or young person is a victim of sexual exploitation, or at risk of becoming a victim, careful consideration should be given to the issue of consent. It is important to bear in mind that:

  • 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
  • Sexual activity with a child under 16 is also an offence
  • 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
  • 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, and
  • If the victim is incapacitated through drink or drugs, or the victim or their 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.

Child sexual exploitation is, therefore, potentially a child protection issue for all children under the age of 18 years and not just those in a specific age group.

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What should professionals do?

1) Key practice principles

Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation (2009) sets out key principles to inform effective practice to safeguard children and young people who are at risk of, or suffering, sexual exploitation:

  • A child-centred approach with action focusing on the child’s needs, including consideration of children with particular needs or sensitivities, and that children and young people do not always acknowledge what may be an exploitative or abusive situation
  • Taking a proactive approach focused on prevention, early identification and intervention, as
    well as disrupting activity and prosecuting perpetrators
  • Taking account of family circumstances, including parenting, in deciding how best to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people
  • Considering the rights and entitlement of children and young people to be safeguarded from sexual exploitation, just as agencies have duties for safeguarding and promoting their welfare
  • Regarding sexual exploitation of children and young people not as criminal behaviour on the part of the child or young person, but as child sexual abuse
  • Using an integrated approach to tackling prevention, protection and prosecution, and
  • Effective joint working between different agencies and professionals, underpinned by a strong commitment from managers, and a shared understanding of the problem and effective co-ordination by the Local Safeguarding Children Board (LSCB).

2) Referring cases

Where child sexual exploitation, or the risk of it, is suspected, frontline practitioners should discuss the case with a manager or the designated member of staff for child protection. If after discussion there remain concerns, local safeguarding procedures should be triggered, including referral to East Sussex Children’s Social Care and the police, regardless of whether the victim is engaging with services or not.

We have also developed the Pan Sussex MACSE Referral Form (June 2015) which is to be completed to refer victims/those considered to be at risk of CSE into the Multi Agency MACSE monthly meeting. This is not mandatory so please do not let it delay making a referral.

The MACSE referral form should also be sent to eastsussexmissingcse@sussex.pnn.police.uk and lindsay.lycett@eastsussex.gov.uk so that Children’s Service have a central record of information submitted and the operations manager(s) who attends the MACSE meeting can have oversight of the referrals.

Please also refer to the East Sussex Child Sexual Exploitation Multi-Agency Operational Instructions and Practice Guidance 2016

3) Identifying and prosecuting perpetrators

The police and criminal justice agencies lead on the identification and prosecution of perpetrators. All frontline practitioners involved with victims of child sexual exploitation should continually gather, record and share information, including data on running or missing episodes, with the police as soon as is practicable.

Sussex Police has developed the Reporting Child Sexual Exploitation Information [Intelligence] to Sussex Police FORM – June2015 to assist in improving how they collate and assess intelligence relating to CSE. You should use this form when you have intelligence or information that is not crime nor a safeguarding issue but could be an indicator of a perpetrator or hotspot for CSE or other information that supports CSE concerns.

Please use the form and send to c22_eastdiv@sussex.pnn.police.uk and copy your email and form to lindsay.lycett@eastsussex.gov.uk so that Children’s Services have a central record of information submitted.

This form is NOT to be used to report matters of crime or immediate concerns regarding the safety and welfare of children/ young people. You will still need to report that via 101/999, whichever is most appropriate.

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Training for professionals

The more you know, the more you see.

All key frontline practitioners should have at least basic training to recognise child sexual exploitation. East Sussex LSCB runs a free e-learning course on CSE as well as a number of courses on the topic during the year. The CSE e-learning module is available via the East Sussex Learning Portal. Please also see our training programme for details of other relevant e-learning courses. When you reach the landing-page for the East Sussex Learning Portal, please select the tab along the blue line at the top named ‘eLearning’ on this page there are several options; the option for ‘safeguarding’ will take you to a number of relevant courses. For any enquires relating to training please contact cwevents@eastsussex.gov.uk 01323 747386.

 

Help available in East Sussex:

Phone 999 if the child is in immediate danger

 

Contact East Sussex Children’s Social Care Single Point of Advice (SPOA) on the following number if you think a child is being or is at risk of being exploited:

01323 464222

The WiSE Project in East Sussex

The WiSE Project works with and supports young people experiencing or at risk of sexual exploitation in East Sussex; their work includes awareness raising workshops and group work.

Professionals can use the WiSE Project Screening Tool to identify children at risk and seek advice and guidance from the Project when writing assessments, reports and plans.

Telephone: 07793 325649
Email: wise@sussexcentralymca.org.uk

Missing People

Missing People has been commissioned to deliver return home interviews for all missing young people in East Sussex. The service also provides longer term one to one support to any young person wishing to engage with a worker.

For any information on this service, or to refer a young person for support, please contact the Senior Service Coordinator Shaun Polley on 07538 650823 or shaun.polley@missingpeople.org.uk or the Local Services Development Manager Erica Thornton on 020 8392 4530 or Erica.thornton@missingpeople.org.uk

Missing People also run a free confidential Runaway Helpline for young people who are thinking about running away, have already run away, or have been away and come back. You can call the helpline or text them, for free, 24 hours a day, on 116 000. You can also email the team on 116000@runawayhelpline.org.uk.

 

Useful websites

Department for Education
The latest government reports, information about reforms and guidance for practitioners.

Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP)
CEOP is dedicated to eradicating child sexual exploitation and is part of UK policing.

Thinkuknow
This website is maintained by CEOP and gives advice to children, young people, parents and teachers on internet safety.

Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation (Pace)
Pace works with parents to enable them to safeguard and stop their children from being sexually exploited. They offer advice and guidance to professionals on how child sexual exploitation affects the whole family.

NSPCC Protect and Respect Service
Protect and Respect is a service for young people aged 11 to19 years who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation or who have been sexually exploited.

Spot The Signs
Advice from Barnardos’s for parents, professionals and young people on how to recognise the signs of child sexual exploitation and how to keep safe.

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