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It involves offenders grooming young people and using their power to sexually abuse them. It can take many forms, whether it occurs through a seemingly 'consensual' relationship with an older partner, or a young person having sex in return for attention, gifts, alcohol or cigarettes.

Sexual exploitation is child abuse and, although they may not realise it, it puts the young victim at huge risk of damage to their physical, emotional and psychological health.

Many young people who are being abused do not realise they are at risk and will not call for help. They may see themselves as willing participants when in fact their behaviour is anything but consenting. And, while there is no stereotypical victim of exploitation, there are warning signs in a child's behaviour that may indicate something is wrong – and if you know what you're looking for, you can take steps to help them.

What signs are there that a child is being sexually exploited?

  • Repeatedly going missing particularly overnight
  • Coming home with unaccounted gifts, i.e. clothes, money, food, jewellery, drugs or mobile phone.
  • Having a relationship with an older partner with whom there may or may not be concerns
  • Mood swings and changes in behaviour
  • Excessive and secret use of internet and /or mobile phone (potential grooming)
  • Having several SIM cards, frequent mobile phone top ups
  • Being unusually secretive
  • Losing contact with family and friends of their own age and associating with an older age group
  • Unrecognised cars arriving at the home, especially at strange times
  • Alcohol/Substance misuse
  • Unexplained injuries
  • Lacking self-esteem, leading to a change in personal appearance
  • Excessive Washing or bathing particularly when returning from missing episodes
  • Repeat sexually – transmitted infections, pregnancy and terminations
  • Absent from school / deterioration in quality of school work
  • Self harm /thoughts or attempts at suicide
  • Poor Mental Health
  • Low self -esteem or self confidence
  • Living in a chaotic or dysfunctional household (including parental substance misuse, mental health issues, parental criminality)
  • Lack of Friends in the same age group
  • Unsure about their sexual orientation or unable to disclose to their families
  • History of Domestic Abuse
  • History of Neglect
  • History of Familial Child Sexual Abuse
  • Learning Disabilities
  • Associating with young people who are sexually exploited
  • Have suffered a recent bereavement or loss
  • Homelessness
  • Living in residential care
  • Young Carer

Please remember that some children / young people show little or no signs, and some may display the indicators for other reasons.

Generally, a change of behaviour should make you question what is happening in the child/young persons life.

There are teams of people working right across Cumbria from many different organisations to help victims escape the cycle of abuse.

The teams share relevant information and coordinate the most appropriate response for each case which helps to identify and disrupt offenders and identify those who pose the greatest risk. It also means that a whole range of support for children, their families and carers can be put in place where needed.

The teams work closely with young people who are being exploited to firstly get them to recognise that they have been, or are being, exploited, and to find ways of helping them to break free from the position they find themselves coerced into.

Cumbria Police have recruited Against CSE Champions in local areas to help raise awareness in Cumbrian communities. They are made up of PCs & PCSOs whose work includes liaising closely with schools across the county, highlighting dangers, warning signs and raising awareness amongst teenagers, teachers, and parents about sexual exploitation.

We will continue to target, warn and prosecute offenders to hit home the message that CSE is not just unacceptable, it is criminal, and we will pursue those people involved and bring them to justice, irrespective of their backgrounds.

How can I get help or find out more?

Anyone with concerns about child sexual exploitation can contact Cumbria Police on 101. In an emergency always dial 999.

People can also contact the free, 24 hour, anonymous phone and text service provided by Missing People on: 116 000

Call Crimestoppers anonymously on: 0800 555 111

Young Victims can report anonymously online at: www.fearless.org

Cumbria Safeguarding Hub on: 0333 240 1727

Cumbria Constabulary have some promotional materials which highlight the issue of CSE.

Please e-mail: 101@cumbria.police.uk if you would like further information.

Advice if you or someone you know has been accessing indecent images.

What to do if someone you know has been accessing indecent images of children online, advice on what can you do? Select Here for an information leaflet. If you have been accessing indecent images of children online, advice what can you do? Select Here for an information leaflet.