Child Sexual Exploitation
Lancashire Constabulary is committed to prevent child sexual abuse, helping victims and bringing offenders to justice. It is a crime that can affect any child, anytime, anywhere - regardless of their social or ethnic background.
It involves offenders grooming youngsters and using their power to sexually abuse them. It can take many forms, whether it occurs through a seemingly 'consensual' relationship with an older boyfriend, or a young person having sex in return for attention, gifts, alcohol or cigarettes.
Sexual exploitation is child abuse and, although they may not realise it, it puts the young victim at huge risk of damage to their physical, emotional and psychological health.
Many young people who are being abused do not realise they are at risk and will not call for help. They may see themselves as willing participants when in fact their behaviour is anything but consenting.
And, while there is no stereotypical victim of exploitation, there are warning signs in children's behaviour that may indicate something is wrong – and if you know what you're looking for, you can take steps to help them.
What signs are there that a child is being sexually exploited?
What are the signs you need to know?
- Has the young person received unexplained gifts or money?
- Do they use their mobile phone secretively?
- Do they have significantly older friends?
- Have they been picked up from home or school by someone you don't know?
- Are they associating with other young people who are already known to be vulnerable or involved in exploitation?
- Have they started playing truant from school or regularly going missing from home?
- Have they suffered from a sexually-transmitted infection?
- Are they self-harming?
- Has their appearance changed?
And what makes a child more at risk?
- If they come from a chaotic or dysfunctional household
- A lack of friends in the same age group
- Confused about their sexuality
- History of domestic abuse or neglect
- Learning disabilities
- Have come into contact with other exploited youngsters, e.g at school
- Have suffered a recent bereavement or loss
- Are homeless or living in residential care, a hostel or bed and breakfast
- Have low self-esteem or confidence
- Young carer
- Live in a gang neighbourhood
Offenders come from many different social and ethnic backgrounds but they all have one thing in common. They are abusing young people and are using their status or position to exploit vulnerable victims.
We recognise that in some areas the number of Asian offenders is disproportionate to the population and far from ignoring this, have been tackling the issue head on by working with the local communities, giving presentations to community forums and visiting mosques to raise awareness.
We will continue to target, warn and prosecute offenders to hit home the message that this type of behaviour is not just unacceptable, it is criminal, and we will pursue those people involved and bring them to justice, irrespective of their backgrounds.
So how do people spot the signs? Read experiences from a parent, carer, teacher and sports coach.
And how does it affect young people. Learn from Jess, Lucy and Jack here.
What is Lancashire doing to tackle child sexual exploitation?
There are dedicated teams of people working right across Lancashire from many different organisations to help victims escape the cycle of abuse.
The teams share relevant information and coordinate the most appropriate response for each case which helps to identify and disrupt offenders and identify those who pose the greatest risk. It also means that a whole range of support for children, their families and carers can be put in place where needed.
The teams work closely with young people who are being exploited to firstly get them to recognise that they have been, or are being, exploited and to find ways of helping them to break free from the position they find themselves coerced into.
Education packages are also delivered in many schools across the county, highlighting dangers, warning signs and raising awareness amongst teenagers about sexual exploitation. Similar presentations are delivered to parents and referrals have come as a direct result of this work.
How can I get help or find out more?
Anyone with concerns about child sexual exploitation can contact police on 101. In an emergency always dial 999.
The teams can be contacted directly on the following numbers / email addresses –
- Operation Awaken (Blackpool and Fylde) : 01253 477 349 / firstname.lastname@example.org
- Operation Breakthrough (Lancaster, Morecambe and Wyre) : 01524 596 764 / email@example.com
- Operation Cherish (Chorley, South Ribble, West Lancs) : 01695 566 323 / firstname.lastname@example.org
- Operation Deter (Preston) : 01772 209 122 / email@example.com
- Operation Engage (Blackburn with Darewn, Hyndburn, Ribble Valley) : 01254 56145 / firstname.lastname@example.org
- Operation Freedom (Burnley, Pendle, Rosendale) : 01706 237 397 / Pennine-OPFreedom@lancashire.pnn.police.uk
Other helpful resources can be found at the following: