A leading children’s charity is calling on the public to familiarise themselves with the signs of child sexual abuse to mark National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Raising Day on Sunday March 18.
National children’s charity NWG Network, who run National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Raising Day, is using the day to highlight the key issues and signs surrounding child sexual exploitation (CSE).
CSE involves manipulation and/or coercion of young people under the age of 18 into sexual activity.
Sheila Taylor MBE, CEO at NWG said: “The National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Raising Day offers an opportunity for focus, for education and for discussion across society.”
Taylor added: “In light of recent news reports it is timely that the 2018 National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Raising Day falls on a Sunday, not only will this enable the public campaigning in shopping centre and public areas to reach a greater audience but it will also enable police forces, organisations and projects to focus on the issue of child sexual exploitation in sports, an opportunity to target the large audiences at football matches and other sporting events taking place over the weekend period.”
“Together we can create more positive outcomes for so many vulnerable young people.”
CSE comes in many forms though and can happen even when it may appear consensual. It can also happen without physical contact, i.e. through technology.
Childline recently revealed that it had delivered 3,122 counselling sessions about child sexual exploitation in 2016/17 compared to 2,340 in 2015/16 – a 33 per cent increase.
In addition 2,433 counselling sessions were held with females and 456 were held with males. In 233 cases the gender was unknown.
The NWG has warned that it can be difficult for parents or guardians to differentiate between ‘normal’ behaviour and a child that is at risk of involvement with sexual exploitation though.
The signs may vary dramatically per child, however, Taylor has shared ten important signs that may show a child is being sexually exploited.
Change in physical appearance, such as new clothes, more/less makeup, poor self image and weight gain/loss.
Having increases health/sexual health related problems.
Having marks or scars on their body which they try to conceal by refusing to undress or uncover parts of their body.
Expressions of despair (self-harm, overdose, eating disorder, challenging behaviour, aggression, appearing drunk or under the influence of drugs/alcohol, suicidal tendencies, looking tired or ill, sleeping during the day).
Being defensive about where they have been and what they have been doing.
Exclusion and/on unexplained absences from school or not engaged in education or training.
Use of the internet that causes concern including possible use of webcam.
Association with gangs.
‘Sexting’ (the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs, primarily between mobile phones).
Older ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ or relationship with a controlling adult.
An NSPCC spokesperson added: “Whether child sexual exploitation is happening online or offline, groomers will use the same devious tactics to manipulate and control young people so they can abuse them for their own pleasure."
“It can be incredibly confusing and difficult for children and teenagers to realise that they are being exploited, with some believing they are in a relationship with their abuser. Our Childline counsellors hear about the guilt and shame that young people feel, so it’s vital that any young person in this situation knows they are not to blame.
“We want young people to know that Childline is there for them, whatever their worry, to answer any questions and offer support and advice.”