Child Sexual Exploitation

During the last year a multi agency working group has been meeting to develop a partnership response to Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) which supports both single and multi agency responses to CSE from a strategic level to an operational level. This work has been fully supported by the Child Protection Committee.

 

The group, chaired by Karen Pedder, Team Manager, Child & Family Social Work Service, are working on a variety of actions which reflect the CPC Improvement Plan. This page will be updated as this work progresses. 

 

To date the CPC have endorsed the Child Sexual Exploitation Strategy 2015-17. Multi-agency guidance for practitioners will be published shortly to coincide with multi service awareness raising and training.

 

 What is Child Sexual Exploitation?

National Guidance definition:-

The sexual exploitation of children and young people is an often hidden form of child sexual abuse, with distinctive elements of exploitation and exchange. In practice, the sexual exploitation of children and young people under 18 might involve young people being coerced, manipulated, forced or deceived into performing and/or others performing on them, sexual activities in exchange for receiving some form of material goods or other entity (for example, food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, gifts, affection). Sexual exploitation can occur through the use of technology and without the child’s immediate recognition.

 

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 often common features; involvement in exploitative relationships being characterized in the main by the child/young person’s limited availability of choice resulting from their social, economic and/or emotional vulnerability.

 

In some cases, the sexual activity may just take place between one young person and the perpetrator (whether an adult or peer). In other situations a young person may be passed for sex between two or more perpetrators or this may be organised exploitation (often by criminal gangs or organised crime groups).

 

Sexual exploitation is abuse and should be treated accordingly. Practitioners should be mindful that a “dual approach” is key in tackling CSE. Whilst a young person must be both engaged with and supported, there must also be a focus on proactive investigation and prosecution of those involved in sexually exploiting the young person.

 

CSE can take a number of forms andBarnardo’s nationally has identified three key areas;

 

  •  Relationships involving a lone perpetrator who has inappropriate power or control over a young person, whether physical (including domestic abuse), emotional or economic. There is likely to be a significant age gap between the perpetrator and victim. The young person may believe that they are in a loving, equal relationship.

 

  • The ‘boyfriend’ model of exploitation and peer exploitation. The perpetrator befriends and grooms a young person into a ‘relationship’ and subsequently coerces them to have sex with friends or associates. This includes gang exploitation and peer-on-peer exploitation.

 

  • Elements of organised/networked sexual exploitation or trafficking – Young people are passed through networks of offenders, possibly between towns and cities, where they may be coerced into sexual activity with multiple men. Victims may also be used as agents to recruit other children and young people. Where there are groups of offenders in a network, these should be considered as Organised Crime Groups (OCGs).

 

Taking Action

 

Child Sexual Exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse and should therefore be treated as a child protection issue.

 

The Fife Multi-agency Underage Sexual Activity Protocol applies to all key agencies in Fife. This should be referred to in all cases however if there is any doubt  or concern that a child/young person ,up to the age of 18,  is suffering, or may be at risk of sexual exploitation  then a Child Concern Notificationshould be sent to the Social Work Contact Centre, in accordance with existing multi-agency child protection procedures.

 

Relevant documents can be accessed at the links below. 

 

In practice, the sexual exploitation of children and young people under 18 might involve young people being coerced, manipulated, forced or deceived into performing and/or others performing on them, sexual activities in exchange for receiving some form of material goods or other entity (for example, food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, gifts, affection). Sexual exploitation can also occur through the use of technology and without the child’s immediate recognition.

 

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 often common features; involvement in exploitative relationships being characterized in the main by the child/young person’s limited availability of choice resulting from their social, economic and/or emotional vulnerability.

 

In some cases, the sexual activity may just take place between one young person and the perpetrator (whether an adult or peer). In other situations a young person may be passed for sex between two or more perpetrators or this may be organised exploitation (often by criminal gangs or organised groups). Both boys and girls can be the victim of child sexual exploitation.

 

Sexual exploitation is abuse and should be treated accordingly. Practitioners should be mindful that a “dual approach” is key in tackling CSE; whilst a young person must be both engaged with and supported, there must also be a focus on proactive investigation and prosecution of those involved in sexually exploiting the young person.

 

Staff have a responsibility to follow local child protection procedures for reporting and sharing these concerns.

 

Vulnerabilities

 

In a high proportion of cases, victims of Child Sexual Exploitation will have one or more social, situational, psychological or physical vulnerabilities. Vulnerabilities can include:

 

  • A history of abuse, neglect and/or disadvantage;
  •  Being looked after, or formerly looked after;
  •  Disrupted family life, including family breakdown, domestic violence and/or problematic parenting;
  •  Disengagement from education and isolation from other support mechanisms;
  •  Going missing from home or care environments;
  •  Drug and alcohol misuse;
  •  Homelessness
  •  Poor health and wellbeing, social isolation, bullying or low self-esteem.

 

 Indicators

 

Professionals and staff in agencies who work with children and families should be aware of, and alert to, the indicators of Child Sexual Exploitation. Possible indicators of sexual exploitation, which workers should be aware of in any assessment of a child or young person, are as follows:

 

  • Staying out late or episodes of being missing overnight or longer;
  •  Multiple callers (unknown adults/older young people);
  •  Evidence of/ suspicion of physical or sexual assault; disclosure of assault followed by withdrawal of an allegation;
  •  Unplanned pregnancy and/or Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs);
  •  Peers involved in sexual exploitation;
  •  Drugs/alcohol misuse;
  •  Isolation from peers/social networks;
  •  Exclusion or unexplained absences from school or college;
  •  Relationships with controlling adults;
  •  Entering/leaving vehicles driven by unknown adults;
  •  Unexplained amounts of money, expensive clothing or other items;
  •  Frequenting areas known for adult prostitution;
  •  Children under 13 years asking for sexual health advice;
  •  Concerning use of the internet/mobile phone.

 

Risks associated with the Internet

 

There are specific risks associated with the internet in terms of child sexual exploitation, including:

 

  • Grooming children on-line for sexual abuse offline;
  •  Children viewing abusive images of children/pornographic images;
  • Selling children on-line for abuse offline;
  •  Making abusive images of children;
  •  Viewing abusive images of children;
  •  Access to chat lines via the internet or mobile phones;
  •  Sexting.

 

Therefore when undertaking an assessment around child sexual exploitation practitioners should consider what risks are posed to the child or young person through the internet, and those that are posed by the child or young person to other children or young people. Please also see section on Online and mobile phone child safety

 

Non-disclosure

 

It is important that practitioners are aware that young people who are victims of CSE rarely directly disclose because they often do not recognise their own exploitation. For example, a young person may believe themselves to be in an “adult relationship” with their abuser. Disclosure of sexual exploitation can be particularly difficult for young people; the sophisticated grooming and priming processes conducted by perpetrators and the exchange element of this form of abuse can act as additional barriers to disclosure.

 

Examples of other reasons for non-disclosure include:

 

  • Fear that perceived benefits of exploitation may outweigh the risks e.g. loss of: supply of alcohol, drugs; the “relationship” and associated “love” and attention;
  •  Fear of retribution or that situation could get worse;
  •  Fear of violence within exploitative relationship;
  •  Shame;
  •  Fear of not being believed;
  •  Fear of labelling e.g. as a prostitute or gay;
  •  Fear of separation from family and /or threat of secure;
  •  Loss of control; fear of Police involvement and court proceedings.

 

Referral

 

Anyone who works with children and families and has concerns that a child is at risk of abuse through sexual exploitation must share their concerns in accordance with child protection procedures set out in this guidance. This includes circumstances where there is a lack of evidence or where there may be concerns which cannot be substantiated. Referrals can help to build up a picture that a child may be suffering harm through sexual exploitation. It is important that practitioners do not wait for a disclosure from a young person or the accumulation of “hard” evidence, prior to making a referral.

 

For further information

 

  • Part 4 of the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 provides for offences criminalising sexual activity with a child under the age of 16, the 'age of consent'.  Part 5 of that Act provides for offences concerning sexual abuse of trust.  Specifically, the Act provides that it shall be an offence for a person in a position of trust over a child under the age of 18 or a person with a mental disorder to engage in sexual activity with that child or person. A summary of the main provisions of the 2009 Act and detailed Guidance is available.

 

  • The Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2005 provides for an offence of 'grooming' which makes it an offence for a person to meet or travel to meet children for the purposes of committing a sexual offence following earlier communications and for specific offences concerning the sexual exploitation of children under the age of 18 through prostitution or pornography. It introduces Risk of Sexual Harm Orders (RSHOs), which are civil preventative orders aimed at protecting children from those who display inappropriate sexual behaviour towards them. To obtain a RSHO, it is not necessary for the individual to have a conviction for a sexual (or any) offence. The 2005 Act also extends the use of Sexual Offences Prevention Orders (SOPOs), so that they can be applied to those convicted of sex offences by the court when they are sentenced. Both SOPOs and RSHOs place conditions (i.e. prohibitions and positive obligations) on those subject to the orders. Guidance on the 2005 Act has been published to assist practitioners. A separate Police Circular on SOPOs has also been published.

 

  • Child Abuse Images -The sale, publication and possession of indecent images of children under the age of 18 is prohibited by Section 52 and Section 52A of the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 (as amended by the Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2005).

 

  • Risk can also be effectively assessed by using the Sexual Exploitation Risk Assessment Framework (SERAF) which is outlined in the Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitationpublished by the Welsh Government.

 

 

 

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