This month I am working with The Children’s Society and helping teens between the ages of 16 and 17. The Children’s Society is a national charity that runs crucial local services and campaigns to change the law to help this country’s most vulnerable children and young people. Their supporters around the country fund their services and join their campaigns to show children and young people they are on their side. I am part of the Seriously Awkward campaign which is an urgent priority campaign calling on the Government to strengthen the law to protect 16 and 17-year-olds from child sexual exploitation. This isn’t just awkward, it’s serious. Child exploitation is a widespread problem that can happen to any child up to age 18, in any community. As a parent of teens, this shocked me as I wasn’t aware of the problems 16 and 17-year-olds face just because they’re over the age of consent.
What is child exploitation?
Child exploitation is where abusers encourage children to do sexual activities and in return they will give gifts, money, affection and even accommodation. Exploitation can even occur through technology without the child realising, for example, persuading a child to share sexual images without anything in return. Violence and intimidation are common and abusers mainly aim for vulnerable young people. There are no exact figures on how many teens are affected by child exploitation, however, The Children’s Society support 750 young people a year at risk of, or experiencing sexual exploitation, in specialist services across the country and have developed online child sexual exploitation resources.
- Teenage girls aged 16 and 17 are more likely to be a victim of a sexual offence than other age groups, with almost 1 in 10 saying they experienced a sexual offence in the last year.
- Teenage boys are less likely to come forward and disclose abuse. Only 1 boy for every 10 girls aged 16 and 17 reported a sexual assault or rape to police in England in the last year. This means that no-one actually knows the true scale of sexual offences taking place against boys aged 16 and 17 and this devastating issue is not widely talked about.
- Too often, older teenagers do not get help and the law fails to give them the same protection as younger children. This includes the police lacking the tools they need to intervene early to protect this age group in the same way they can protect under 16-year-olds and problems getting therapeutic support.
Why we need to help
A crucial opportunity has now arisen to strengthen the law to protect 16 and 17-year-olds from sexual exploitation. A bill, introduced by Government in February, could see changes that mean older teenagers are better protected. As the laws stands, police cannot step in and protect older teenagers in the same way they can protect children under 16. By making a few changes to the Policing and Crime Bill, the Government can change this. As the bill progresses through Parliament, we need your help to ensure as many MP’s as possible back the changes we need to ensure greater protection for young people experiencing exploitation. All you need to do is fill in this form, and it could help young people for future generations: Invite your MP
4 things that could be changed right now with your help
- More powers for police to intervene early to stop sexual exploitation of vulnerable 16 and 17-year-olds before it happens.
- A new offence for those who use alcohol and drugs to threaten, coerce and groom children.
- More consistent data collection by the police so that children get the same protection regardless of what police authority they live in.
- Better support for victims while their case is investigated and prosecuted to help them stay engaged and part of the process.
For more understanding, here is Becky’s Story :
I never knew how bad this situation was and I’m truly shocked. To find out more about The Children’s Society click here.