Minority of parents alive to signs of child sexual exploitation
Today Barnardo’s, the largest children’s charity, is launching a major awareness drive to help parents, professionals and young people spot the signs of child sexual exploitation.
Barnardo’s worked with more than 1,000 victims of this crime last year, but believes this figure is just the tip of the iceberg, with many victims failing to get the support they need as telltale signs are missed.
In figures revealed today, the charity has found that only a minority of parents (38%) believe that children are being sexually exploited in their local area, despite this being an issue in towns and cities across the UK.
Barnardo’s chief executive Anne Marie Carrie said: “This is a horrific and pernicious crime that everybody needs to be alive to.
“Vulnerable defenceless girls and boys, who crave love and attention, are groomed then abused in the most callous and calculated way, leaving them deeply traumatised and scarred for life.
“Yet victims continue to go unidentified as telltale signs are overlooked. I want mothers, fathers, professionals and young people to have the confidence in spotting these signs. The earlier abuse is identified, the earlier we can stop it.”
Signs include a child:
• going missing for long periods of time
• regularly returning home late
• appearing with unexpected gifts or new possessions
• behaving in an inappropriately sexual way
• associating with older teenagers or adults.
Less than half of parents are able to spot the more subtle signs of children being exploited, such as regularly returning home late (43 per cent) and associating with older teenagers and adults (41 per cent).
The poll, conducted by ComRes, also found mums are more likely than dads to consider all the signs of sexual exploitation as risky. And one in four (25%) dads do not feel confident that they would spot whether the relationships their child has are dangerous, compared with one in six mums (17%).
To view the full list of signs of child sexual exploitation go to www.barnardos.org.uk/cutthemfree.
Notes to editors
This release is relevant to Great Britain.
Sexual exploitation ranges from sexual relationships in exchange for attention, accommodation or gifts to sex trafficking.
ComRes interviewed 1147 GB parents online between 3rd and 7th August 2011 across two waves, with 580 interviewed between 3rd and 5th and 567 interviewed during the weekend of the 6th and 7th.
To view the poll in full please contact senior media officer Rebecca Goding on 020 8498 7534.
Barnardo’s is calling on local authorities to recognise the issue and commit to setting out how they will tackle the problem. And it is also launching a call to councillors in England to raise the issue with their lead member for children’s services, get it on their local authority agenda and commit publicly to tackling child sexual exploitation themselves today.
In Scotland Barnardo’s has launched a petition to press Scottish Government to take action against child sexual exploitation, which will be considered by Scottish Parliament on September 6.