CSE remains woefully under reported and many victims are unaware they are being exploited
Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE for short) is a type of child abuse which occurs when a young person is encouraged, or forced, to take part in sexual activity in exchange for a ‘reward’ which can either be emotional or a physical gift, such as money or alcohol. Whilst some children are considered more at risk, CSE can happen to any child from any race, community or background and the exploitation can happen both online and offline.
The last 10 years have seen CSE hit the headlines with the prosecution of gangs in Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxford but only last month, the NSPCC warned that the CSE still remains woefully under reported.
Whilst children can be targeted at any age, teenagers are notably most vulnerable, particularly between the ages of 13 and 15 when they are learning to become young adults. This can be an emotional time when they are easily influenced, want to fit in with a crowd or may crave attention or recognition. With offenders using manipulative tactics, many child victims are unaware they are being groomed or exploited. Groomers can give them access to alcohol and drugs and make them feel grown up, which makes them feel they are choosing those relationships, when in reality they are being exploited. The very nature of grooming makes it difficult to recognise as groomers often succeed in deceiving both the victim and those around them. Many adults are therefore not able to recognise the signs that a young person is being exploited.
In a recent report by the Independent, NSPCC’s policy manager, Lisa McCrindle highlighted the importance of relationship education in schools “so young people know what a good relationship looks like and what an unhealthy, abusive relationship looks like.” This follows research by CEOP (Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre) which affirms that nearly three quarters of secondary education teachers say school lessons are the most important way to teach children about sexual exploitation. Messages about healthy relationships and risky behaviour can be taught through Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE) and Sex and Relationship Education (SRE). Topics that can be explored include: respect and responsibilities, understanding of dangerous and exploitative situations, exploring gender stereotypes and gender roles and assessing risk and its consequences. The video ‘Exploited’ which was released in 2012 is an excellent tool that helps teach young people about exploitative friendships. Produced by CEOP with support from a range of national partners including the NSPCC, Brook, the Sex Education Forum and Barnardo’s, the video follows the story of fictional teenager Whitney to explore how children and young people can be made vulnerable to sexual abuse, highlighting the grooming and manipulation techniques used by abusers.
For teachers, knowing how to recognise the signs of CSE plays an important part in its prevention. Young people who are being sexually exploited may be involved in gangs, hang around with older groups of people or have older boyfriends or girlfriends. They may regularly go missing or be away from school for long periods of time. By giving our teachers the skills to identify those most vulnerable and engage them in discussion about their experiences we are able to protect them from any further longer lasting damage. The NSPCC’s Protect and Respect Service, launched in 2011, is open to children and teenagers aged 10 to 19, and works with teachers, police officers, nurses and youth workers to identify and support youngsters who have been sexually exploited or are at risk of falling victim. The service has directly helped 1,866 children and young people so far, including 1,493 children between the ages of 10 and 15.
There’s also positive news from the Government, who are taking further steps to support the cause. Ministers have pledged an extra £40 million to help agencies do more to fight sexual abuse, trafficking and exploitation. The drive includes the launch of a new centre of expertise and plans to create a new national database of missing people.
Concerned about CSE among students in your school?
E-safety Support can help.
Developed by Tim Pinto, e-safety consultant and member of the Educational Advisory Board for CEOP, our CSE training course explores the stages of CSE and how to recognise it. It is available for distribution exclusively to our Premium Plus members.
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