Sexual Exploitation - Guidance

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).



It may be hard to imagine how any child could be drawn into prostitution.  The sad fact is that those who benefit from child prostitution use sophisticated methods to lure their victims in, and keep them there. It can begin with an ‘exciting’ new relationship with an older boyfriend who may in fact be, or become, a pimp. 


The child may receive expensive gifts and be introduced to alcohol and drugs.  Before long the pimp creates a loyal and dependent relationship with the victim and can then persuade or force them to make money for him by providing sexual services to others.  But this is not a business relationship - it is an illegal form of sexual abuse, which puts the child involved at risk from severe physical, emotional and psychological damage.   The emotional and psychological damage can be devastating and can lead to self harm, severe depression and suicide.


Warning signs


absence from home or truancy from school

unexplained money, clothes, jewellery or other gifts

new relationships with older men

evidence of drug or alcohol abuse

changes in mood or behaviour

loss of contact with former friends and new relationships with an older age group

lack of self-esteem.


A close and positive relationship with your child can reduce their vulnerability.  Ensuring that they have high self-self esteem and feel good about themselves can prevent them falling prey to abusive relationships. However, even with the best parents in the world, some children will find themselves vulnerable to this form of abuse.  Parents can often feel powerless to intervene in what can be a complex and threatening situation. 


If you feel your child is at risk you can contact the Social Work Contact Centre 03451 551503 or the Police on 101 for advice and support.    Try to encourage your child to confide in you about their situation; avoid alienating your child or making them feel that they are to blame; get in touch with information and support agencies that can help you and your child. Make sure that your child knows that you are there to help them, no matter what they have experienced.  They are victims of abuse and you understand how difficult it must be for them.











































































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