New research published by the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (Cafcass) has revealed some troubling details about child sexual exploitation.
Data was gathered from 28 serious case reviews submitted to Cafcass between August 2013 and September of this year.
Children who have “pre-existing vulnerabilities” as a result of their family situations are more likely to be targeted by sexual predators, the research indicates. For example, if there is a history of substance abuse or violence in a child’s family they are more susceptible to victimisation.
One possible explanation for this is that such children are viewed by perpetrators as less likely to be adequately protected by the adults in their life. They are also less likely to report abuse.
Another finding was that some victims of sexual exploitation do not see themselves as being abused but rather as being part of a consensual relationship. Some young people in those situations even referred to their abusers as “boyfriends”.
One case in particular described a young girl who had been in several foster placements after concern over her parents’ drug and alcohol use. She admitted she had “sex with men for money” but had claimed it was consensual.
Social workers can find it very difficult to identify cases of exploitation, the report suggested.
Anthony Douglas is the Chief Executive of Cafcass. He hoped that research of this kind would continue in order to help social workers “recognise some of the recurring warning signs” of abuse and “protect more vulnerable children from such an abhorrent crime”.
Cafcass supports children who are involved in family disputes and care applications. To read the results of their research, click here.