Child sexual exploitation
Child sexual exploitation is a major child protection issue for communities across the UK. Hidden from view and going unnoticed, vulnerable young girls and boys are groomed and then abused, leaving them traumatised and scarred for life.
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What is Child Sexual Exploitation?
Child sexual exploitation is illegal activity by people who have power over young people and use it to sexually abuse them.
This can involve a broad range of exploitative activity, from seemingly ‘consensual’ relationships and informal exchanges of sex for attention, accommodation, gifts or cigarettes, through to very serious organised crime.
How many are affected in the UK?
- It is a hidden issue, so we can only go on estimates from national levels of service provision, including our own. Last year Barnardo's services worked with almost 1,200 children and young people who had been sexually exploited.
- The true number of children who are victims of sexual exploitation is likely to be much higher. For victims, the pain of their ordeal and fear that they will not be believed means they are too often scared to come forward.
Risks faced by children?
- Children at risk of sexual exploitation are some of the most vulnerable in our society. Many have experienced abandonment or have suffered from physical and mental abuse. They need help but don’t know where to look.
- Younger victims are being targeted. In only a few years, the average age has dropped from 15 to 13. Barnardo’s services have identified children as young as 10 who have been subjected to sexual exploitation.
- Perpetrators of these crimes are becoming increasingly sophisticated; using the internet to protect their identity and trafficking children around the country to avoid detection.
The services Barnardo’s provide
- Barnardo’s is the largest provider of child sexual exploitation support services in the UK. Last year we worked with almost 1,200 victims through 21 specialist services.
- Our services work hard to identify and reach out to young people at risk in the community. By showing concern and building trust, our staff help children to break free of abusive and exploitative relationships.
- Staffed by qualified professionals, these services provide a safe and confidential environment where young people can go for help, advice and support. Children are offered a range of therapeutic interventions including one-to -one counselling, group-work sessions and drop-in support.
- Services raise awareness of child sexual exploitation in their local area; working with schools and others to deliver preventative education programmes and providing specialist training to professionals so they know what signs to look out for.
Read stories of how we help to transform the lives of sexually exploited children.
Find out more
- download our sexual exploitation research and resources, which include policy reports and tools for professionals.