Sexual Abuse and Child Sexual Exploitation

Children may also be victims of sexual abuse and sexual exploitation.

### Definition of Sexual Abuse

  • Forcing or enticing a child or young person to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening.
  • The activities may involve physical contact, including penetrative or non-penetrative acts.
  • They may include non-contact activities, such as involving children in looking at pornographic material or watching sexual activities, or encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways.

What is Child Sexual Exploitation?

Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse.

It occurs where an individual (or group) takes advantage of an imbalance in power to pressurize, manipulate or deceive a child, or person under the age of 18, into sexual activity. This may be:

  • in exchange for something that the victim needs or wants, and / or;
  • for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator of facilitator

Children and young people may have been sexually exploited even if their activity appears to be consensual. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact, it can also occur through the use of technology.

The risk factors for child sexual exploitation include:

  • A history of abuse
  • Recent bereavment
  • Homelessness
  • Low self-esteem
  • Being a young carer
  • Being in or leaving care
  • Links to a gang through relatives, peers, intimate relationships or the neighborhood in which one lives

There are several signs that may suggest child sexual exploitation. These include:

  • Unexplained bruises or injuries
  • Unexplained gifts or money
  • Going missing or returning home late
  • Drugs and alcohol misuse
  • Adult or much older friends
  • Suffering from STIs
  • Missing school
  • Mood swings
  • Breakdowns in relationships with family or friends
  • Changes in behaviour and/or appearance