11 December 2014
When you think about the sorts of people who sexually exploit children, you probably have a clear picture in your mind. From lonely, older men to those involved in the criminal world, many of us think we know exactly who and what to watch out for.
But, the sad truth is that there is no typical offender and many of the people who are convicted of sexually exploiting children, are the last people you’d expect to see in prison.
Who sexually exploits children?
According to a recent study by The Children’s Commission, the ages of people convicted of child sexual exploitation range from 12 to 75-years old. They come from all sorts of different backgrounds and live all over the country.
Research by Barnardo’s has also shown that the people exploiting children are becoming cleverer, using tools like the internet, social media and instant messaging to contact and groom young people.
Why don’t we know for sure?
With so many cases of child exploitation in the news recently, you’ll probably be wondering why the police and other agencies don’t know exactly who’s behind the sexual exploitation of young people.
However, because a lot of those responsible hide their identity by using nicknames, false names or online technology, it can be really hard to track them down and identify them. In many cases, the children themselves may not know the identity of the person abusing them, or they may be passed between individuals or gangs on a regular basis.
In a lot of cases, those vulnerable to exploitation never tell anyone, so the crimes go unreported and are never investigated. This might be because the young person who has been exploited is too afraid to go to the police, feels embarrassed about what’s happened or they just don’t know where to look for help.
How can you protect yourself?
Channel 4 News, along with OpenWorld News, have got their hands on figures that show high levels of children at risk of exploitation with around 6,000 children in the UK reported as ‘at risk’ of sexual exploitation since the beginning of 2013.
Though this is still a small number compared to the population of the country, the amount of young people affected by sexual exploitation is growing, and remember this just includes reported cases and not the growing number of unreported cases.
Unfortunately you or one of your friends could be approached by someone who intends to exploit you at some point either now or in the future. Knowing the warning signs could help to keep you and other people you know safe.
Luckily, there are lots of organisations out there, like The Rose Project that can give you loads of advice about how to stay safe both on and offline.
And we have lots of experience in dealing with child sexual exploitation, there’s no need to feel worried embarrassed or scared of talking to them. So for free, confidential support call 0808 800 1037 or click on live chat.