Child Exploitation – information for parents and carers
Everyone’s child is at risk of being sexually exploited – at any age, anytime, anywhere
Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a type of sexual abuse in which children are sexually exploited for money, power or status.
Parents are often the first to notice something is wrong: trust your instincts and talk to your child if you’re worried:
- Have they a boyfriend, girlfriend or friends including adults who you don’t know?
- Have you noticed them getting presents, money, a mobile phone or jewellery?
- Have they been missing from home, staying out overnight or missing school?
- Do they get picked up or dropped off by unknown people?
- Are they secretive about where they go and who they see?
- Do they chat to people online who they’ve never met?
- Do you know what they’re accessing online?
- Are they drinking or taking drugs regularly?
Look, listen, ask, ask again, be curious….
Children or young people may be tricked into believing they’re in a normal or loving, consensual relationship. They might be invited to parties and given drugs and alcohol. They may also be groomed online.
Some children and young people are trafficked into or within the UK for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Sexual exploitation can also happen to young people in gangs.
If you suspect a child may be at risk, or have any information relating to child sexual exploitation, call the Council on 01454 866000 or the Police on 101. If a child is in immediate danger, dial 999 straight away.
Carrying knives and blades:
Some young people carry knives and even take them into school. There have been cases of knife crime in the area resulting in serious injuries to young people caused by stabbings in recent years.
Why young people decide to carry knives may be for many reasons – to feel safe, for protection, to earn respect or for their reputation. Whatever the reason, none of them are a defence to carrying a weapon and none of them will stop the carrier from being prosecuted.
In fact, carrying a knife puts you at greater risk of being injured. 7 out of 10 young people who end up in A&E with a knife injury have been stabbed with their own knife. If you carry a knife and end up in an argument, you are also more likely to use it.
Some facts about knives:
- It is a criminal offence to have a blade in a public place, this includes kitchen knives and craft knives
- It is illegal for anyone under 18 to buy a knife of any sort
- Self-defence or protection are not defences to carrying a knife. In fact, you can be prosecuted if someone is stabbed even if you don’t touch the knife but you are there under
- Police can stop and search anyone they believe is carrying a knife
Useful links: Advice and signs for parents and professionals to look out for available here
Avon & Somerset Police Information available here (includes how to surrender a knife in Avon and Somerset)
County lines is the term used to describe how drug suppliers, usually from urban areas, target more rural areas using dedicated mobile phone numbers or ‘lines’.
Drug dealing, violence and exploitation often go hand in hand with county lines. Commonly young people are drawn into county lines by groups from cities who exploit vulnerable people in their target area. Typically, groups will criminally exploit young and vulnerable people by persuading or forcing them to sell, hold or carry drugs or carry out other criminal activity. Often they will seek to establish a base and take over the home of someone vulnerable by force or coercion, this is known as ‘cuckooing’.
Some facts about county lines:
- Young people aged 14-17 are most likely to be targeted by criminal groups but there are reports of children as young as 6 or 7 being groomed into county lines. To reduce the risk to themselves, dealers use people they think others will not suspect.
- People exploited in this way will often be exposed to physical, mental and sexual abuse or trafficked a long way from home.
- Often the young person being exploited will have been groomed and is not aware they are a victim. They have been given expensive items or cash.
- People can be coerced into county lines online as well as in person, this is especially true since the pandemic.
Exploitation and criminal groups:
Criminal groups seek out vulnerable children and young people to exploit, manipulating them into thinking the group can meet their needs. They are often befriended first and may initially be asked to carry out simple tasks and bought gifts and food so they are indebted to the group or an individual. They may be groomed and do not realise they are a victim before being asked to carry out criminal activities like carry or sell drugs.
Some facts about exploitation and criminal groups:
- Children and young people have often said they joined these groups for the sense of belonging and protection that they could not find elsewhere.
- Exploitation can happen anywhere to any child but vulnerable children and young people who have conflict at home, are missing school or have mental health issues are more likely to be targeted. Often they are targeted at parks, bus stops and fast food outlets and online through gaming platforms and social media.
- Children being exploited may be seen as criminals. It is important to recognise them as victims and understand how we can all play a part in preventing them from being forced or coerced into criminal activity or help end their exploitation.
Kayleigh’s Love Story
A film produced by Leicestershire Police to warn children and parents of the dangers of online grooming.