Child Sexual Exploitation can happen to any child anywhere

01/02/2017

Parents across Northern Ireland are being urged to be aware of the risk of Child Sexual Exploitation. The call comes from Health and Social Care Trusts as part of the Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Awareness Week organised by the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland.

Parents across Northern Ireland are being urged to be aware of the risk of Child Sexual Exploitation.

The call comes from Health and Social Care Trusts as part of the Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) Awareness Week organised by the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland.

Child Sexual Exploitation is a form of sexual abuse when a person exploits or manipulates a child or young person into engaging in some form of sexual activity in return for something tangible (e.g a gifts or money) or intangible, such as perceived affection.

Children are most vulnerable to sexual exploitation between the ages of 13 and 15, but younger victims are being targeted all the time. In one month alone, Barnardo’s services across the UK worked with 126 children aged 10–13 who had been affected.

Child Exploitation can happen to any child from any family background and anywhere – inside or outside the home.

Cecil Worthington Director of Social Work/Children’s Communities in Belfast Trust explains: “Child Sexual Exploitation can have a major impact on young people, making them feel trapped and manipulated, leading to anxiety, depression, drug or alcohol abuse or self-harm and can have long term consequences on school work and family life, so it is really vital that parents are aware of the risks and how they can protect their child.

“With advancing technology and increasing accessibility to mobile devices, parents now need to be wary of the risks to their child both inside and outside the home. We advise parents to keep up to date with modern technology and be vigilant of their child’s behaviour for example, do they have unexplained gifts or money or are they very protective of their phone? But most importantly try to maintain open and honest communication with your child.”

There is a wide range of support available to parents for example through Barnardos (www.barnardos.org.uk)  NSPCC (www.nspcc.org.uk) or the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland  (www.safeguardingni.org) and parents are encouraged to attend any online safety awareness events organised through schools.

Cecil adds “If you do think your child is a victim of Child Sexual Exploitation it is important to reassure them that you will help them, don’t blame yourself or think you are a bad parent and seek professional help through school, social services or your GP.”

Read more about Child Sexual Exploitation and the support available here.