Research has shown that on average 80% of children try to tell someone about the abuse or exploitation they are experiencing but on average it takes seven years for the disclosure to be fully heard (Allnock and Miller, 2013). Statistics such as these highlight the importance of all those who are supporting young people being aware of exploitation, the signs of exploitation and how to support a young person who may be being exploited.
Child Criminal exploitation
Child criminal exploitation refers to a geographically widespread form of abuse or harm that often includes county lines criminal activity.
Gov.UK defines CCE as:
“Child criminal exploitation is common in county lines and occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, control, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18. The victim may have been criminally exploited even if the activity appears consensual. Child criminal exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through technology”.
When trying to support a young person who may be being criminally exploited, it is important to firstly recognise some key signs including:
· Persistently going missing or leaving home/care without an explanation
· Unexplained acquisition of money, clothes, jewellery, or mobile phones
· Receiving an excessive number of texts/calls or using more than one phone
· Spending increasing amounts of time online
· Having hotel cards or keys to unknown places
· Being secretive about who they are talking to and where they are going
· Relationships with controlling older individuals or groups
· Returning home unusually late or staying out all night
· Suspicion of physical assault or unexplained injuries
· Loss of interest in school and significant decline in performance
· Using sexual, gang, drug-related or violent language you wouldn’t expect them to know
· Meeting with unfamiliar people or associating with a gang
· Becoming isolated from peers or social networks
· Sudden changes in lifestyle
· Increasingly disruptive or violent behaviour
· Getting into trouble with the police
Child Sexual Exploitation
Child sexual exploitation is a form of sexual abuse which refers to an individual or group, takes advantage of a power imbalance to coerce manipulate or deceive a child or young person into sexual activity.
The department of Education defines child sexual exploitation as:
“Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. It occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator. The victim may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology”.
Whilst all young people, regardless of gender can be at risk of sexual exploitation, some factors that increase a young person’s vulnerability to CSE include:
· Prior experience of neglect, physical and/or sexual abuse
· Domestic violence or parental substance misuse, mental health issues or criminality
· Recent bereavement or loss
· Social isolation/difficulties
· Absence of a safe environment
· Economic vulnerability
· Homelessness or insecure accommodation status
· Connections with other young people who are being sexually exploited
· Family members or other connections involved in adult sex work
· Having a physical or learning disability
· Being in care
· Sexual identity
If you feel you or a young person you know needs further support in relation to their experiences of exploitation and would like to speak with a trained professional, the team at bMindful would be able to offer that support.
If you would like more information about supporting a young person who may have experienced or being at increased risk of exploitation, contact 0161 510 0111 for more information regarding our exploitation training programmes.