Lancashire Constabulary is committed to preventing 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, we 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.
Are you worried that you or one of your friends may be a victim of CSE?
Nest Lancashire has been set up to support young people aged 10 to 18 who have been affected by crime or subjected to bullying, threats or harassment. You can talk to them in confidence and all of the services are free of charge. Call them 0300 111 0323
You can also check out our young person’s website Trust Ed where you will find lots of helpful advice on child sexual exploitation, rape and relationships. There are contact details if you need to speak to someone and a report it online button.
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, Fylde, Lancaster, Morecambe and Wyre): 01253 477 261
- Operation Engage (Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn, Ribble Valley, Pendle and Rossendale): 01254 353 525
- Operation Deter (Preston, Chorley, South Ribble, West Lancs): 01772 209 122
Child Sex Offenders Disclosures Scheme
The national scheme means that anyone can ask the police to check whether an individual who has access to children has committed any child sexual offences. Started in 2008, the Child Sex Offender Disclosure Scheme was developed in consultation with Sara Payne, the former victims' champion, along with the police, and children's charities.
Disclosure takes place if that person has convictions for sexual offences against children and there is reasonable cause to believe a child is in danger of being seriously harmed. Details of previous convictions will be disclosed to the person who is best placed to protect the child. Read more and find out how to apply at our Child Sex Offenders Disclosures Scheme page