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Recognising the signs of sexual exploitation

Noticing the warning signs of sexual exploitation will help professionals to respond promptly in assessing risk and protecting young people. The below diagram is based on material from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (2011).  It describes some known signs of child sexual exploitation, based on the characteristics of the young person, parents, community and the suspected abuser. Connection to friends is a critical aspect of healthy adolescent development and practitioners will need to develop an understanding of the young person’s friendship networks as you begin to gather information to form your risk assessment.

Young people say:

‘"Now I get it. If kids are on the streets, if they run away or their parents kick them out, there are men out there who will take advantage of them and ‘cos you’ve got nowhere else to go, you’ll do it [have sex with them]. … It’s better than sleeping out and getting raped by someone you don’t know who could do anything to you. … There’s always someone who will take advantage of you. When you’re a kid, it’s hard to say no to an adult who says they want to help you and offers you a place to stay ‘cos what other choice do you have?’"

(Barnardos, 2013)

Further reading

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children is a UK Charity that advocates for legislative change and action to better protect children. Their website has further information regarding child sexual exploitation.

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