On March 18th 2023, it was National Child Exploitation Awareness Day where the world united against child sexual exploitation. The aim was to encourage everyone to think, spot and speak out against abuse, and to adopt a zero tolerance to adults developing inappropriate relationships with children.
We want to highlight that everyone should be aware of this issue and be able to recognise the signs at any time.
What is child exploitation?
Child exploitation is the act of using a child for profit, labour, sexual gratification, or some other personal or financial advantage.
There are many forms of child exploitation, and the complexities of these issues requires professional support and national mass awareness. Child exploitation is often hidden from view and goes completely unnoticed; vulnerable young girls and boys are groomed and then abused, often leaving them traumatised and scarred for life.
Child Sexual Exploitation – a form of sexual abuse that involves the manipulation and/or coercion of young people under the age of 18 into sexual activity.
Child Criminal Exploitation – children and young people that might be the victims of violence or pressured into doing things such as stealing or carrying drugs or weapons. They might be abused, exploited, and put into dangerous situations.
How can you help?
Here are some of the signs to be aware of where a child or young person might be experiencing child exploitation:
- Travelling alone, particularly in school hours, late at night or frequently
- Looking lost or in unfamiliar surroundings
- Anxious, frightened, angry, or displaying other behaviours that make you worried about them
- In possession of more than one phone
- Carrying lots of cash
- Potentially under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- Being instructed or controlled by another individual
- Accompanied by individuals who are older than them
- Seen begging in a public space
Here are some signs to be aware of where a child or young person might be experiencing child sexual exploitation:
- Going missing for periods of time or regularly returning home late
- Skipping school or being disruptive in class
- Appearing with unexplained gifts or possessions that can’t be accounted for
- Experiencing health problems that may indicate a sexually transmitted infection
- Having mood swings and changes in temperament
- Using drugs and/or alcohol
- Displaying inappropriate sexualised behaviour, such as over-familiarity with strangers, dressing in a sexualised manner or sending sexualised images by mobile phone (“sexting”)
- Increasing their screen time or showing unusual use of online platforms, such as websites, social media, apps, or games
- They may also show signs of unexplained physical harm, such as bruising and cigarette burns
If something doesn’t feel right, don’t wait, report it
- Call the police on 101 or 999 in an emergency. You can also report to the police online.
- Call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 if you have information about child exploitation and abuse or suspect it might be happening, but you want to remain anonymous. You can also contact them online.
- Call the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000 – their helpline is staffed by trained professionals who can provide expert advice and support if you are concerned about a child or young person.
- Speak to the designated Safeguarding lead at school.
- For Nottinghamshire incidents, contact MASH (Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub), part of Nottinghamshire County Council on 0300 500 80 90.
We’re here to help
In the last 5 years, we have supported over 5,000 individuals across Mansfield and Ashfield. We exist to support survivors of domestic abuse, keep families safe and place children and young people at the heart of everything we do.
Our core values here at NIDAS ensure we are always person-centred, and safeguarding is at the epicentre of our work. We liaise very closely with other agencies to ensure the best quality support is given to children and young people and families alongside direct support sessions to raise awareness of Child exploitation, keeping safe and healthy relationships.
We advocate for the voices of our children and young people, and pride ourselves on building trust, which enables them the opportunity to voice their concerns.
If you need support or know someone in the Mansfield or Ashfield area who does, please contact us on 01623 683 250 or email [email protected].