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Tackling child abuse

We are committed to ensuring that all children and young people are protected and kept safe from harm while engaged in services that we organise and provide.

Adviza (external website) provides advice and support for young people aged 13 to 19 and people up to 25 with special needs. (Services previously provided by Connexions.)

Child sexual exploitation - child abuse

If you are worried about a young person, you must do something. There are specialists who can advise you on what to do next. They can also talk to any young person themselves.

If you are concerned about a young person you can contact the First Response Team on 0845 460 0001 or email:

If you think a child or young person is in immediate danger call 999. Alternatively contact your local police on 101 who will have a dedicated team you can talk to about child sexual exploitation.

You can also talk confidentially about your concerns and seek advice from Stop it Now:

  • Stop it Now (external website)
  • Telephone: 08001000 900

What is sexual exploitation?

Sexual exploitation is a form of sexual abuse in which a young person is manipulated or forced into taking part in a sexual act often in return for attention, affection, money, drugs, alcohol or accommodation.

Some young people may think that their abuser is their friend or boyfriend/ girlfriend. In reality they are being used for sex and the 'boyfriend' or 'girlfriend' might physically or verbally threaten them and be violent towards them and may pass them on to other people too.

Sexual exploitation can also take place online and via text, without the young person being aware, for example, being persuaded to post or text sexual images of themselves.

In all cases, those exploiting the young person will control and manipulate them and try to isolate them from friends and family.

Are you worried about your child or teenager?

Children often show us rather than tell us that something is upsetting them. Sometimes things that seem like normal teenage behaviour could be a sign a young person is being sexually exploited.

Signs to watch out for

  • Becoming withdrawn, clingy or unusually secretive
  • Unexplained changes in personality, mood swings and seeming insecure
  • Nightmares or sleeping problems
  • Running away, staying out overnight, missing school
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Talk of a new, older friend, boyfriend or girlfriend and unexplained money or gifts
  • Spending a lot of time online talking to new people
  • Losing contact with family and friends
  • Physical signs such as unexplained soreness or bruises around private areas
  • Or you may just be worried about unsafe sexual behaviour

Any one sign doesn't mean that a young person was or is being sexually abused, but the presence of several suggests that you should begin to ask questions and consider seeking help. Keep in mind that some of these signs can emerge at other times of stress such as:

  • During a divorce
  • Death of a family member or pet
  • Problems at school or with friends
  • Other anxiety-inducing or traumatic events

How does sexual exploitation happen?

We know from experience that some grown-ups target young people and draw them into abusive sexual relationships. This is how it works:

  • Older adults show them a lot of interest and affection at the beginning, and make them feel special.
  • Sometimes they ask groups of young people to come back to their house or go to parties.
  • They are offered drugs and alcohol and a place to chill out.
  • They may get presents like clothes, a mobile phone, or money to buy alcohol and cigarettes.

After they have gained the youngster's trust and affection, things change.

  • They will ask for sexual favours for themselves or other people, in return for alcohol, drugs, presents, money - all the things they started giving for free.
  • They stop being nice and can become threatening or violent.

Video - can you recognise the signs?

The Sexual Exploitation of Children - Can you recognise the signs? (external website) - helps childcare professionals and police spot the early signs of group-associated grooming. It was produced by the Association of Chief Police Offices (ACPO) and the National Policing Improvement Agency (NPIA) and features Eastenders actress, Shona McGarty.

Other resources

Contact information

  • Telephone: 01494 421 876