Sexual abuse of children involves forcing or enticing a child to take part in sexual activities, not necessarily involving a high level of violence, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. The activities may involve physical contact or non-penetrative acts and may also include non-contact activities, e.g. involving children in looking at, or in production of abusive images, watching sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways etc. It may also involve grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the Internet).
Sexual exploitation can happen to any child from any background and it affects boys as well as girls. Whilst perpetrators are mostly male, females can also be involved in this abusive activity.
Some children may be more vulnerable to exploitation than others. For example those that are having difficulties at home; are truanting or have been excluded from school; regularly go missing from home or care or those who are living in care (looked after children).
Many victims of child sexual exploitation have been groomed by an abusing adult or sometimes by an older child. Grooming is when the abuser befriends a child and makes them feel special by buying gifts for them or giving them lots of attention. Victims can be targeted in person or online and perpetrators are increasingly using the Internet to protect their identity and traffic abused children around the country to avoid detection.
Children who are victims of this form of sexual abuse often do not recognise they are being exploited. However, there are a number of signs that can indicate a child is being groomed for sexual exploitation:
Parents and Carers should be alert to the dangers that children face in respect of CSE and should be proactive in discussing risks with their children. They can help reduce the risks their children face by discussing the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships with them and making them aware that CSE is a real issue in our communities.
Parents and Carers can take some practical steps, such as:
If you are concerned about a child...
For more information and advice about safeguarding against Child Sexual Exploitation see: