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Child exploitation

Child exploitation is a type of abuse. Child exploitation involves situations and relationships where young people receive items such as food, gifts or money as a result of them completing a task, often criminal in nature, on behalf of another person or group. This is usually in exchange for either;

  • performing sexual activities, known as Child Sexual Exploitation
  • criminal activity, known as Child Criminal Exploitation

Child Sexual Exploitation:

Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse that is based on an on-going exploitative relationship between perpetrator and child. A child or young person under the age of 18 is sexually exploited when they have received ‘something’ (e.g. food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, gifts, money) in exchange for sex.

Children and young people can be sexually exploited through the use of technology - for example by being persuaded to post sexual images on the internet or via a mobile phone.

Sexually exploitative relationships are characterised by an imbalance of power and the use of controlling behaviours to keep the child or young person in a dependent position.

Definition:

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:

  • in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or
  • 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.

Child Criminal Exploitation:

Children are not only exploited sexually, the exploitation of children for criminal gain is an emerging issue affecting communities across the UK.

Child Criminal Exploitation occurs where an individual or a 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 the use of technology.

Definition:

Criminal Exploitation involves 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 completing a task on behalf of another individual or group of individuals; this is often of a criminal nature.

Grooming:

All forms of child exploitation can involve a ‘grooming stage’. The term ‘grooming’ describes the variety of methods that are used to manipulate and control victims. This can include:

  • The giving of gifts or presents;
  • Rewards - like mobile phone top-ups or games credits;
  • False promises of love and/or affection;
  • The provision of alcohol and drugs.

Grooming is a way of developing an exclusive bond between abuser and victim. Adolescents are particularly vulnerable to grooming where the abuser deceptively constructs a connection between sought after love and affection, increased status, or offers a sense of belonging.

As a result of this process, children and young people rarely recognise the coercive and abusive nature of the relationship and will prioritise their attachment and loyalty to the offender over their own safety and wellbeing.

The early stages of the grooming process can seem an exciting time for a child or young person - particularly if they are given high status gifts or are taken to parties, pubs, or clubs that they wouldn’t normally get into.

In cases of sexual exploitation it is common for grooming to take place online.

Things to look out for:

  • Returning home late, staying out all night or going missing
  • Being found in areas away from home
  • Increasing drug use, or being found to have large amounts of drugs on them
  • Being secretive about who they are talking to and where they are going
  • Unexplained absences from school, college, training or work
  • Unexplained money, phone(s), clothes or jewellery
  • Increasingly disruptive or aggressive behaviour
  • Using sexual, drug-related or violent language you wouldn’t expect them to know
  • Coming home with injuries or looking particularly dishevelled
  • Having hotel cards or keys to unknown places

What should I do?

  • If you're worried about a child, even if you're unsure, contact the Sheffield Safeguarding Hub for help, advice and support on 0114 2734855

  • If a child or young person is in immediate danger of serious harm or has been left alone then call 999

  • If you think a crime has taken place or it's not an emergency then call 101

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