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Sex abuse and child sexual exploitation

Sexual abuse includes unwanted sexual comments, touching, being made to have sex when you don’t want to, or being forced to look at sexual pictures or videos.

Sometimes your abuser may be a family member or someone you thought was a friend.

Abusers may manipulate you into going along with underage sex by offering you gifts or using emotional blackmail. This is called child sexual exploitation.

Abusers may make friends with you online and try to get you to send sexual pictures of yourself by mobile phone or using a web cam. Even if they don’t touch you, this is still sex abuse.

No matter what the circumstances, or what has happened, you are not to blame. Even if the abuse happened a long time ago, help is available.

You may also be affected by:

  • Rape and sexual assault
  • Domestic abuse

Child sexual exploitation

It’s not okay for someone to manipulate you into doing sexual things for their own or someone else’s benefit. If you’re under 18, this is called child sexual exploitation and it is against the law.

Anyone can be a victim of child sexual exploitation and it happens to boys and girls. Sometimes abusers are adults, and sometimes victims are exploited by ‘so-called’ friends of a similar age.

For example, someone may try and get you to do sexual things by:

  • offering you money
  • hurting or threatening to hurt you
  • humiliating or threatening to humiliate you
  • buying you presents or offering you drink or drugs
  • taking you out to places
  • giving you a place to stay
  • telling you that they love you

It’s not always easy to know when you are being sexually exploited, especially if it is your friend, boyfriend or girlfriend that is exploiting you.

There are lots of different types of child sexual exploitation, which is why it can be hard to tell if it is happening to you, or for your parents and carers to spot that something is wrong. These are just some examples:

  • An abuser may pretend to be your friend and earn your trust before trying to get you to have sex. This is called grooming.
  • A group of young people might gang up you to get you to carry out sex acts. This might be in return for friendship or so you can join the gang.
  • An abuser may try and become your friend online – perhaps pretending to be someone your age – getting you to carry out sex acts using a web cam.
  • A new boyfriend or girlfriend might start to expect you to have sex with them in return for gifts or favours, or try to get you to have sex with their friends.
  • Abusers might try to get you to have sex with other people in return for money, drink or drugs. They may blackmail or threaten you.
  • Abusers might try and lure you to parties with promises of free alcohol and drugs, but then expect you to have sex with people while you are there.

Child prostitution – there is no such thing!

There is no such thing as a child prostitute (someone who has sex for money or gifts). If you are under 18 and someone is paying you or offering you gifts for sex – even if you go along with it – this is child abuse. Your abuser is taking advantage of you and breaking the law. It is their fault, not yours.

How it can affect you

If you have been sexually abused or exploited, you may blame yourself for what has happened. If you have been abused by a family member, or someone you thought loved you, you are likely to feel betrayed, angry and upset. You may still love them even thought they have done this to you.

Abusers are very clever in the way they trick, manipulate, and emotionally blackmail young people. No matter what the abuser says or does, exploitation is never your fault, even if you went along with things at first.

Nearly all victims of sexual abuse find it incredibly hard to speak up about it. If you feel this way, you are not alone. Sexual abuse is scary, confusing and worrying. Your self-esteem is likely to be very low and you may feel ashamed to talk to someone about it and get help.

The important thing is that you understand that the abuse is not your fault, and that help is available to help you deal with what has happened to you. It’s okay to speak to someone about it.

What you can do

If something bad has happened to you or you are worried about something, don’t suffer in silence. Even if you don’t want to talk to the police, tell a trusted adult or friend and use their support. Sometimes just speaking to someone about what is happening to you can help.

If the abuse took place a long time ago, you can still get help from the police or support services dedicated to helping people recover from childhood abuse, no matter when or where it happened, or how old you are now.

Worried about a child?

In an emergency, always dial 999.

NSPCC helpline

The NSPCC runs a specialist helpline offering help, advice and support.

Call children’s safeguarding and social care professionals

How to get help and report it

It doesn’t matter when the abuse took place, you can still report it to the police and get help and support.

It’s not okay and local child sexual exploitation teams

The www.itsnotokay.co.uk website contains lots of information and advice about child sexual exploitation. Find out what it is, how to spot the signs, and how to report it.

Specialist child sexual exploitation teams operate across Greater Manchester. Made up of police, health, and social care specialists they are dedicated to helping young victims and those at risk from child sexual exploitation. If you are worried about a child, they can help.

Call children’s safeguarding and social care professionals

Search our directory or call our helpline

If you don’t want to speak to the police or talk to someone who knows you, you can also get help from various services who specialise in helping and supporting children.

You can search our directory to find services that support children and young people are victims or witnesses of crime. You can find help for yourself, or someone you are worried about.

Although you don’t have to make a report to the police, many support services, including our helpline, have a duty to act if they know that a child is being sexually abused.

In an emergency: dial 999

An emergency is when a crime is being committed or has just been witnessed, there is a risk of injury, or a risk of serious damage to property.

In a non-emergency: dial 101

Use this number to report a non-emergency incident or make a general inquiry.

Report anonymously

Contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111. Crimestoppers is a charity which is entirely independent of police and never share details with police of people who have got in touch.

CEOP

CEOP is the child exploitation and online protection centre. It works with child protection partners across the UK and overseas to identify the main threats to children and coordinates activity against these threats to bring offenders to account. They protect children from harm online and offline, directly through National Crime Agency led operations and in partnership with local and international agencies. If someone has behaved towards you online, or to a child or young person you know – it may be sexual chat, being asked to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable or someone being insistent on meeting up – you can report it to CEOP by making a CEOP report (see below).

There are lots of organisations dedicated to helping young people with a whole range of issues, including support for young victims of crime. Follow the links to find out more.

There is also lots of help and advice out there for children and young people:

Internet Watch FoundationThey are the UK Hotline for reporting criminal online content and work with the internet industry, police and international partners to get it removed. Reports to the IWF are confidential and can be submitted anonymously. Your report to the Hotline may help to trace and rescue a young victim from further abuse.

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