Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a growing problem in society and those in the care system are particularly at risk - it is estimated that every year 10,000 children go missing in Scotland and are put in great danger of being physically or sexually abused according to a new report from the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland (CELCIS).
To address the issue and investigate how widespread it is, the Care Inspectorate commissioned the Centre for Excellence for Looked After Children in Scotland (CELCIS), to carry out a study into CSE and examine what actions are being put in place to identify and respond to it.
The Sexual Exploitation of Looked After Children in Scotland found that,according to data collected by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), young people aged 14 to 15 are more likely to be CSE victims and perpetrators are usually males aged 18 to 24. The internet is responsible for a significant proportion of abuse, yet boys and girls are equally at risk, with chatrooms and social networking sites common routes to exploitation.
Although all young people are vulnerable, there is a clear association between going missing from care and the prevelance of CSE. Characteristics that increase the risk include: family difficulties, abuse and neglect, experience of the care system, drug and alcohol abuse and a history of running away and gang involvement. More than a third of female residents in care (37%) said sexual harassment had occurred before admission, compared to 11% of boys - and 23% of females and 7% of males said it had happened after.
Other indicators that have been identified by Barnado’s include unexplained gifts, an older boyfriend or girlfriend, mood swings, sexually transmitted infections and inappropriate sexualised behaviour.
There are also barriers to disclosing such exploitation, particularly disabled young people due to their increased vulnerablity, young boys who do not want to appear helpless, and those from minority ethnic backgrounds, who may have been trafficked into the country. Also, as a result of grooming, many may not recognise the relationship as abusive.
The moves taken by local authorities to prevent this happening include better monitoring systems and improved inter-agency practices, early intervention, safe accommodation and intensive support.
Read the full report at: www.celcis.org/resources/the_sexual_exploitation_of_looked_after_children_in_scotland