Child Exploitation

The exploitation of children and youth is an often hidden and unrecognised problem. Children as young as ten have been identified as victims of sexual exploitation, by being groomed by adults and coerced or forced into sexual activity. Young people can be exploited by adults using gifts, attention, or other forms of exchange, for sex.

The adults involved use their power and control over the child to continue to illegally exploit them. Some young people may feel they are in a consensual sexual and romantic relationship with an adult, not understanding they are being exploited. For others, the shame, fear, powerlessness and lack of support keep them silently locked in a cycle of victimisation.

Exploitation can also occur without physical contact, such as a child being persuaded to send indecent images of themselves by mobile phone or online, or participate in sexual activity over the Internet.

Becoming aware of a potentially exploited child or young person may be difficult, as this activity is often hidden and unseen. Some children may be more at risk of being exploited, particularly vulnerable youth such as those with a history of abuse or neglect; youth living in a home with domestic violence or parental substance abuse; homeless youth; and those in care.

As with any form of child abuse, if an adult has concerns about the welfare of a young person or suspects a child is being abused they should refer to the school or organisation’s child protection policy, or contact emergency services if a child is in immediate danger.

More information and advice can be found on our Reporting Signs of Abuse page.