Child sexual exploitation – are you relationship safe?
Think about your relationships – friendships, boyfriend or girlfriend, or groups of friends that you either know from school, college or the area where you live.
As we get older, we develop relationships with lots of different people and each relationship will be different. Some are healthy and will make you feel good about yourself, while others can go wrong along the way and may make you feel uncomfortable, unhappy or scared.
It’s a trust thing
At times, it can be difficult to know who you can trust. Sometimes, people might want to take advantage of you and ask you to do sexual things and you might find yourself in dangerous situations without even realising it. This is called child sexual exploitation (CSE) and it’s not okay for this to happen to a young person. In fact it is abuse and young people have the right to be safe from it.
CSE can happen to anyone, regardless of their gender, age or background, so it’s important that you are aware of the warning signs of CSE so that you can be careful about who you can trust, and can recognise if someone is trying to exploit you.
Grooming – do you know the signs?
You may have become close friends with someone either from school or your community, or perhaps a person you met online. It is important to think about how they behave and whether they may be trying to gain your trust so they can trick or manipulate you into sexual activity, either with them, or with other people.
They might try to isolate you from your friends, family and support network, so that you are alone and vulnerable. They could force you to do things that you don’t want to do with them, or with other people that they know. They might ask for sexual favours for themselves, and/or other people in return for the gifts they were giving you for nothing before.
Signs that a person might be trying to groom you:
- they may make you feel special about yourself and shows you a lot of interest
- they may offer you gifts like money, clothes, a mobile phone
- they might try to involve you in things that seem exciting such as drinking alcohol or using drugs, going to parties or taking you to new places
- they might introduce you to other adults
- they may offer you a place to chill at or spend the night
- they might make you feel that they understand you and are they only person you can depend on.
How will I know if somebody I care about is being exploited?
There are times when we worry about our friends and what they might be getting involved in. It is important that friends look out for each other as often they can be the first people to notice if something isn’t right.
These are are some warning signs to look out for in your friends:
- going missing or running away from home
- being secretive about where they have been and who they have been with
- bunking off school or college
- spending time with older friends, boyfriends or girlfriends
- spending less time with their family and usual friends
- they have new expensive possessions without explanation like a mobile phone, or have been given money or clothes
- drinking alcohol or using drugs
- mood swings that are out of character
- talking about harming themselves in some way
- unexplained injuries
- having sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or unwanted pregnancies
- you are worried they are being controlled, threatened or intimidated by somebody.
How can I get help?
If you are worried that you, or someone you know is at immediate risk, the first thing you should do is contact the police on 999. If you have general worries about your own, or somebody else’s situation contact MASH (Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub) on 0345 155 1071 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and give as much information as you can.
Other support services and telephone helplines:
Childline – 0800 111
Missing Kids UK – 116 000
Y-SMART young people’s drug and alcohol service – 0800 121 4751 (freephone) or 01271 38816
Devon County Council out-of-hours social care – 0845 000388
Think u know – the latest information about the sites you like to visit, mobiles and new technology
Space (formerly Devon Youth Service)
The Eddystone Trust – Devon sexual health services