Children and young people can suffer abuse in many settings, for example, in a family, or in an institutional or community setting. Often the abuse will be committed by someone who is known to them. However, sometimes the abuse may be committed by a stranger.
What is Child Sexual Exploitation?
Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is a form of child abuse where young people – regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation - are encouraged to take part in sexual activity.
When a child or young person is being sexually exploited their abuser(s) may give them things like gifts, money or affection in exchange for performing sexual activities.
The abuser(s) often manipulates the child or young person into believing that they are in a loving and consensual relationship.
How do I know it’s happening to me?
Child sexual exploitation can be very hard to understand – it’s a form of grooming.
- It can happen in person or online.
- The abuser can pretend to be a boyfriend or girlfriend and win your trust, before starting to take advantage of this and making you feel uncomfortable.
- They gain your trust in lots of ways including buying you gifts, giving you attention or making you feel protected.
- The person, or people, may start to do things like:
- Conversations turning sexual
- Encouraging you to stay away from your friends/family
- Trying to control where you go and who you see
- Introducing you to things like drugs and alcohol and going to parties
- Getting you involved in criminal behaviour
- Introducing you to their friends and encouraging you to carry out sexual acts with them
- Even if you aren’t sure what is happening is wrong, speak to someone and ask for help.
Will anyone believe me? Will I get into trouble?
The Police Service of Northern Ireland takes child sexual exploitation extremely seriously. If you come to us we will treat you with respect and dignity and we will listen to you.
We work alongside a number of different organisations who also offer help and advice to anyone who is or has been a victim of child sexual exploitation.
You will not get into trouble for what has happened to you, and you will be offered support and help so that it stops.
What if I think it’s happening to my friend?
You should tell someone you trust about what you’re worried about. Friends can be the most important relationship a young person has and if you have realised there is something wrong, you can help just by telling a teacher, a parent, a carer or even contacting a charity organisation anonymously.
If you think you have been a victim of child sexual exploitation in the past, and you’re now an adult, you can still speak out.