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Childhood sexual exploitation

Lots has been spoken about in the media about Childhood Sexual Exploitation. This page hopes to explain what it means. If you feel you have been sexually exploited, please contact us for support.

Scottish Government definition

The sexual exploitation of children and young people is an often hidden form of child sexual abuse, with distinctive elements of exploitation and exchange. In practice, the sexual exploitation of children and young people under 18 might involve young people being coerced, manipulated, forced or deceived into performing and/or others performing on them, sexual activities in exchange for receiving some form of material goods or other entity (for example, food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, gifts, affection). Sexual exploitation can occur through the use of technology and without the child’s immediate recognition.

In all cases those exploiting the child/young person have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and/or economic or other resources. Violence, coercion and intimidation are often common features; involvement in exploitative relationships being characterized in the main by the child/young person’s limited availability of choice resulting from their social, economic and/or emotional vulnerability.

So what does this mean?

Child sexual exploitation is child sexual abuse. It happens much more than people think. It can involve someone under the age of 18 doing something sexual for someone else in exchange for things like food, shelter, money, drugs, cigarettes, alcohol or even affection or attention.

It can and does happen online as well and we know that a lot of young people, particularly girls are exploited by other young people with naked/semi-naked or sexual videos being sent around without their consent.

The people doing the exploiting have power over the person being exploited, that means they have something over them. Here are just a couple of examples:

  • If a young person really needs money and someone is willing to pay them to do a sexual act, the young person is being exploited for money.
  • If a young person needs cigarettes or alcohol and someone is willing to give them those things in exchange for a sexual act, the young person is being exploited for goods.
  • If a young person has sent a naked picture to someone and they then send it on without the young person’s consent, the young person is being exploited for all kinds of reasons like acceptance, affection, conformity and popularity etc.
  • If a young person agrees to perform a sexual act to clear someone else’s debt, the young person is being exploited for money.

Quite often it involves a huge amount of manipulation which means that things are done in an under-hand, sneaky way so we don’t even realise we are being exploited. It can be really hard to admit to ourselves we are being exploited particularly if we care for or love the person doing it to us.

So what kind of support can we offer to young people who feel they may have been or are still being sexually exploited?

If you think this might have happened to you or might still be happening then we can provide you with support. It’s really important you have a safe space to be able to talk at your own pace about what’s happened.

You will not be judged! We’re not only hear to help with your feelings, we’re also here to help with the more practical things like housing, money matters or even speaking to other agencies for advice.

Quite often, young people will blame themselves for what has happened or is still happening to them. We want you to know:

  • It is not your fault
  • You are not to blame
  • We will not judge you
  • You will not get into trouble
  • We are here to support you