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2.1.1 Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation


Contents

1. Introduction
2. Definitions
  2.1 Sexual Exploitation
  2.2 Trafficking
  2.4 The Legal Age for Consent to Sex
3. Principles
4. Risks
5. Indicators of Risk and Preventing Sexual Exploitation
  5.1 Risk Indicators
  5.2 Specific Risks Associated with Computers and Mobile Phones
6. Taking Action if you are Concerned about a Child or Young Person
  6.1 Seeking Advice
  6.2 Making a Referral to Children's Social Care
  6.3 The Role of Children’s Social Care


1. Introduction

The purpose of this guidance is to assist professionals to understand sexual exploitation and how they best support and safeguard these children and young people who are identified as being at risk of sexual exploitation.

It is important that such professionals understand the impact of sexual exploitation and are able to:

  • Recognise the indicators of risk of sexual exploitation;
  • Assess the level of risk a child or young person may face;
  • Prevent children and young people from becoming exploited;
  • Work with children and young people who are at risk of and or victims of sexual exploitation;
  • Support children and young people and the Police to take action against perpetrators;
  • Know who to contact for advice;
  • Know how to make a referral to the appropriate services.
It is vital that professionals recognise the importance of recording their concerns and pass these to the Police/named contact within their organisation. Information about the circumstances and people involved will contribute to Police intelligence, and at a later stage may also contribute to the successful prosecution of adults that sexually exploit children and young people.

Rotherham Local Safeguarding Children Board (RLSCB) promotes a multi-agency approach which emphasises the need to:

  • Recognise the problems of the sexual exploitation of children and young people;
  • Safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people;
  • Work together to provide children and young people with strategies to exit sexual exploitation;
  • Investigate and prosecute those who coerce, exploit and abuse children and young people in this way.

This protocol should be read in conjunction with other RLSCB procedures and protocols in this manual including:


2. Definitions

2.1 Sexual Exploitation

The Department for Education (see Child sexual exploitation Definition and a guide for practitioners, local leaders and decision makers working to protect children from child sexual exploitation (February 2017)) defines sexual exploitation as:

Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. Sexual abuse may involve physical contact, including assault by penetration (for example, rape or oral sex) or nonpenetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside clothing. It may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in the production of sexual images, forcing children to look at sexual images or watch sexual activities, encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways or grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet).

The definition of child sexual exploitation is as follows: Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. It occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator. The victim may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.

Like all forms of child sexual abuse, child sexual exploitation:

  • Can affect any child or young person (male or female) under the age of 18 years, including 16 and 17 year olds who can legally consent to have sex;
  • Can still be abuse even if the sexual activity appears consensual;
  • Can include both contact (penetrative and non-penetrative acts) and non-contact sexual activity;
  • Can take place in person or via technology, or a combination of both;
  • Can involve force and/or enticement-based methods of compliance and may, or may not, be accompanied by violence or threats of violence;
  • May occur without the child or young person’s immediate knowledge (through others copying videos or images they have created and posting on social media, for example);
  • Can be perpetrated by individuals or groups, males or females, and children or adults. The abuse can be a one-off occurrence or a series of incidents over time, and range from opportunistic to complex organised abuse; and
  • Is typified by some form of power imbalance in favour of those perpetrating the abuse. Whilst age may be the most obvious, this power imbalance can also be due to a range of other factors including gender, sexual identity, cognitive ability, physical strength, status, and access to economic or other resources. Like all forms of child sexual abuse, child sexual exploitation.

2.3 Trafficking

There are two different types of trafficking of children and young people for the purposes of sexual exploitation. Firstly, there is trafficking from abroad into the United Kingdom (see Safeguarding Children and Young People who may have been Trafficked from Abroad Procedure). The second category is internal trafficking, where children and young people are moved from one place to another in the UK for the purposes of sexual exploitation. This may be from one street to a neighbouring street, from one area of a town or city to another area, or across county borders. It is not the distance that is relevant in the definition of internal trafficking, but the movement of a child or young person for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

2.4 The Legal Age for Consent to Sex

The Legal Age of Consent

Offences as a result of sexual activity with a child under the age of 16 are brought under the Sexual Offences Act 2003. These offences can include rape, if a child is under 13 years old, as they cannot legally consent to sex and/or sexual activity with a child. A defendant’s belief that the child was over the age of 13 or 16 is not a legal defence. Children over the age of 13 years are still unable to consent to sexual intercourse however; defendants may state that they believed the young person was 16 years old as their defence.

It will be the decision of the Crown Prosecution Service and the Police as to what charges are brought against the adults involved. These charges can still include rape, sexual activity with a child and inciting sexual activity with a child.

The fact that a young person is aged 16 or 17 and, therefore has reached the legal age to consent to sex should not be taken as a sign that they are no longer at risk of sexual exploitation.

They are still defined as children under the Children Act 1989 and 2004 respectively. They can still suffer significant harm as a result of sexual exploitation and their right to support and protection from harm should not be ignored or de-prioritised by services because they are over the age of 16, or are no longer in mainstream education or training.


3. Principles

The principles underpinning Rotherham Local Safeguarding Children Board’s multi-agency response to the sexual exploitation of children and young people are as follows:

  • Sexual exploitation includes sexual, physical and emotional abuse, and, in some cases, neglect;
  • Children and young people do not make informed choices to enter or remain in sexual exploitation, but do so due to coercion, enticement, manipulation or desperation;
  • Young people under 16 cannot consent to sexual activity: sexual intercourse with children under the age of 13 is statutory rape;
  • Sexually exploited children and young people should be treated as victims of abuse, not as offenders;
  • Many sexually exploited young people have difficulty distinguishing between their own choices about sex and sexuality, and the sexual activities they are coerced into. This potential confusion should be handled with care and sensitivity by professionals;
  • The primary law enforcement effort must be made against the coercers and adults who sexually exploit young people. In some cases young people themselves may exploit other young people, and in these cases law enforcement action may also be necessary;
  • Young people over the age of 16 are still defined as children under the Children Act, 1989 and 2004. They can still suffer significant harm as a result of sexual exploitation and their right to support and protection should not be ignored nor will their need for services;
  • The primary law enforcement effort must be made against the coercers and adults who sexually exploit young people. In some cases young people themselves may exploit others. It is crucial when working with children and young people who are victims of sexual exploitation that practitioners do not criminalise them and should view children and young people who exploit others as victims themselves.


4. Risks

Children and young people involved in any form of sexual exploitation face immense risks to their physical, emotional and psychological health. The environment in which sexual exploitation is located tends to have close links with criminal behaviour, drug and alcohol misuse and violence. Children and young people drawn into this kind of sexual abuse therefore become exposed to these risks. There has been a higher incidence of murder associated with commercial sexual exploitation than is the case in the general population, and they are also more vulnerable to other violent acts such as rape, physical and sexual assaults and coercion into pornography. Their physical health is placed at risk through the increased likelihood of contracting sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and AIDS. Other risk factors are common to other types of child sexual abuse, and can include physical injuries, non-attendance at school and / or educational under-achievement, depression, self-harm and attempted and actual suicide.

Anyone who has regular contact with children and young people is in a good position to notice changes in behaviour and physical signs which may indicate involvement in sexual exploitation. However, parents, carers, teachers, doctors and youth workers are particularly well placed to do so. They should also be able to recognise where children and young people are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and may need targeted measures to prevent such abuse. The primary concern of anyone who comes into contact with a child or young person who is vulnerable to being sexually exploited must be to safeguard and promote their welfare.

Practitioners should be aware of the potential signs that a child or young person is being groomed for sexual exploitation. They should also know of local areas and locations which perpetrators tend to target, for instance, school entrances, local parks, residential units, homeless units, playgrounds, transport interchanges and taxi ranks.

Careful consideration should be given to whether relationships which are presented as consensual by children or young people actually are, or whether exploitation is taking place. Professionals should be alert to the ways in which perpetrators can operate, especially where there is a large age-gap between the individuals involved.


5. Indicators of Risk and Preventing Sexual Exploitation

5.1 Risk Indicators

The effects of sexual exploitation are harmful and far reaching for children and young people. In order to be able to prevent sexual exploitation it is essential that practitioners are familiar with the indicators of risk (listed below) and work to reduce these wherever possible.

In this context prevention will mean reducing the risks identified by:

  • Reducing children and young people’s vulnerability to these risks;
  • Improving their resilience;
  • Disrupting and preventing the activities of perpetrators;
  • Reducing tolerance of exploitative behaviour;
  • Prosecuting abusers.

Section 6, Taking Action if you are Concerned about a Child or Young Person of Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation describe in more detail how to manage individual cases and how to identify and prosecute perpetrators. However, the following is also a useful guide:

The earlier that sexual exploitation, or a risk of sexual exploitation, can be identified, the more likely it is that harm to a child or young person can be minimised or prevented. The indicators below are recognised indicators of sexual exploitation. It should not be read as a definitive list and the indicators should not be taken, in themselves, as proof of involvement or predictive of future involvement. They are intended as a guide, which could be included in a wider assessment of the child or young person’s needs and circumstances. In effective practice, the facts for each child or young person should be considered separately.

An unsubstantiated allegation that a child or young person has established associations with sexual exploitation or sex work should be considered carefully. None of the following indicators, whether singly or in combination, should be viewed as conclusive proof of involvement in sexual exploitation, but a combination of them may be taken as suggestive of the possibility. The following indicators are for both girls / boys, and young women / men.

Child or Young Person’s Developmental Needs

Health:

  • Physical symptoms (bruising suggestive of either physical or sexual assault);
  • Evidence of misuse of drugs / alcohol, including associated health problems;
  • A sexually transmitted infection (STI), particularly if it is recurring or there are multiple STI's;
  • Pregnancy and / or seeking an abortion;
  • Sexually risky behaviour;
  • Self-harming or eating disorders;
  • Weight loss;
  • Noticeable decline in young person’s physical appearance.

Education:

  • Truancy / disengagement with education, or considerable change in performance at school.

Emotional and Behavioural Development:

  • Becoming angry, hostile if any suspicions or concerns about their activities are expressed;
  • Volatile behaviour exhibiting extreme array of mood swings or abusive language;
  • Aggressive or violent;
  • Getting involved in petty crime such as shoplifting or stealing;
  • Secretive behaviour;
  • Entering or leaving vehicles driven by unknown adults;
  • Young offender behaviour of anti-social behaviour;
  • Sexualised language;
  • Sexually offending behaviour;
  • Excessive use of reliance on mobile phones.

Identity:

  • Low self image;
  • Low self esteem;
  • Self-harming behaviour - cutting, overdosing, eating disorder, promiscuity;
  • Sexually explicit behaviour.

Family and Social Relationships:

  • Hostility in relationship with parents / carers and other family members;
  • Physical aggression towards parents, siblings, pets, teachers or peers;
  • Placement breakdown;
  • Reports that the child / young person has been seen in places known to be used for sexual exploitation;
  • Detachment from age-appropriate activities;
  • Associating with other young people who are known to be sexually exploited;
  • Known to be sexually active;
  • Sexual relationship with a significantly older person;
  • Unexplained relationships with older adults;
  • Possible inappropriate use of the Internet and forming relationships, particularly with adults, via the Internet;
  • Phone call, texts or letters from unknown adults;
  • Persistently missing, staying out overnight or returning late with no plausible explanation;
  • Returning after having been missing, looking well cared for in spite of having no known home base;
  • Missing for long periods, with no known home base;
  • Going missing and being found in areas where the child or young person has no known links;
  • Accounts of social activities with no plausible explanation of the source of necessary funding.

Social Presentation:

  • Change in appearance;
  • Leaving home / care setting in clothing unusual for the individual child (inappropriate for age, borrowing clothing from older young people);
  • Wearing an unusual amount of clothing (due to wearing more sexualised clothing underneath);
  • Possession of excessive numbers of condoms.

Indicators which highlight difficulties in the parents' capacity to ensure the safety of a child or young person

A history within the family of:

  • Physical Abuse;
  • Sexual Abuse;
  • Emotional Abuse;
  • Neglect;
  • Domestic Violence and Abuse;
  • Parental difficulties e.g. drug and alcohol misuse.

Family and Environmental Factors

Indicators which might increase a child or young person’s vulnerability to the risks of sexual exploitation are:

A history of:

  • Physical Abuse;
  • Sexual Abuse;
  • Emotional Abuse;
  • Neglect.
Housing:
  • Pattern of street homeless;
  • Having keys to premises other than those known about.

Income:

  • Possession of money with no plausible explanation;
  • Acquisition of expensive clothes, mobile phone or other possession without plausible explanation;
  • Accounts of social activities with no plausible explanation of the source of necessary funding;
  • Always have credit on their mobile phones, despite having no access to money.

Family’s social integration:

  • Reports that the child has been seen in places known to be used for sexual exploitation;
  • Seen at public toilets known for cottaging or adult venues (pubs and clubs);
  • Adults loitering outside the child / young person’s usual place of residence.

5.2 Specific Risks Associated with Computers and Mobile Phones

  • Spending increasing amount of time on social networking sites (for example Bebo, MSN, My Space, Facebook);
  • Accessing dating agencies via mobile phones (for example 2 flirt line);
  • Unexplained increased mobile phone / gaming credits;
  • New contacts with people outside of town;
  • Spending increasing amount of time with online friends and less time with friends from school or neighbourhood;
  • Increased time on web cam, especially if in bedroom;
  • Going online during the night;
  • Being secretive using mobile phone for accessing Bebo etc, more than computers;
  • Unwilling to share / show online contacts;
  • Concerns that a young person’s online friendship has developed into an offline relationship;
  • Concern that inappropriate images of a young person are being circulated via the internet / phones;
  • Arranging to meet people they have met on line;
  • Exchanging inappropriate images in exchange for aiming knowledge / phone and gaining credits;
  • Receiving gifts through the post from someone the young person does not know;
  • Concern that a young person is having an online relationship;
  • Concern that a young person is being coerced to provide images;
  • Sharing of inappropriate images amongst friends;
  • Concerned that a young person is being bribed by someone for their inappropriate online activity;
  • Concern that a young person is selling images via the internet for money;
  • Concern that a young person is being drawn into providing increasingly provocative / sexualised images in exchange for payment;
  • Negotiating a prices for sexual activity / images;
  • Concern that a young person is selling sexual services via the Internet;
  • Being bullied / threatened, pressured.

The forming of a close relationship with an older boyfriend, or female ‘friend’ who may in fact be or become a coercer; Adults who exploit young people in this way are adept at the ‘grooming’ process and target those who are vulnerable. They may offer them the affection they crave and / or material gifts; they may introduce them to drugs / alcohol and inspire intense loyalty. Parents and social workers may find that convincing the young person to return home or to end the relationship is extremely difficult to achieve. The young person may not view themselves as a victim and may not be prepared to make any complaint to the police, for example if it is thought that unlawful sexual intercourse is taking place between the young person and the older male.

There are also family history factors which should be taken into consideration, and may increase the significance of other indicators. These are:

  • Physical Abuse;
  • Sexual Abuse;
  • Emotional Abuse;
  • Neglect;
  • Domestic Violence and Abuse;
  • Parental difficulties e.g. drug and alcohol misuse.
Sexual identity may also be an issue for the child or young person.

The fact that a young person is 16 or 17 should not be taken as a sign that they are no longer at risk of sexual exploitation. Young people of this age are still covered by statutory duties under the Children Acts 1989 and 2004, and they can still be subject to significant harm as a result of sexual exploitation. Their needs should not be ignored or de-prioritised by services.

A member of staff may receive information about a child or young person’s involvement in sexual exploitation from friends or acquaintances, with who they may in residential care for example. Information of involvement of sexual exploitation should always be investigated to establish accuracy.


6. Taking Action if you are Concerned about a Child or Young Person

If you are concerned that a child or young person is at risk, or is being sexually exploited you should always contact the Police or the Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) to make a referral.

6.1 Seeking Advice

Professionals, or parents / carers, can seek advice from the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) on 01709 336080.

6.2 Making a Referral to Children’s Social Care

For more information see Referring Safeguarding Concerns about Children Procedure.

Any practitioner who is concerned or receives information, that a child or young person is involved in sexual exploitation, should make a referral to the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH), whether or not they have already been allocated a social worker.

6.3 The Role of Children’s Social Care

When a professional, parent, or another person contacts Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH) with concerns that a child or young person is being sexually exploited, Children’s Social Care should decide on its course of action within 24 hours.

As well as information about the child or young person, it is also important that anything known about the adults or other alleged perpetrators involved, such as names, nicknames, addresses, is included as part of the referral. Information about other children / young people should also be recorded. This information should be passed to the police by Children’s Social Care. It may be that they are already known to agencies as a Person who Poses a Risk (PPR) to children and young people, or that their details are recorded as Someone of Concern.

The referrer should be informed of the decision taken and any proposed action by Children’s Social Care within seven working days. If no feedback is received, the referrer should contact them to follow up on the outcome.

For more information see Action Following Referral of Safeguarding Children Concerns Procedure.

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