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Is My Child Being Exploited?

Safer Cornwall Exploitation Strategy

CE the Signs 2 header

What is Exploitation? 

Exploitation is when adults trick your child into doing something. This might be having sex, carrying drugs or stealing. 

Sometimes it is easy to spot abuse. Other times you might not think that what’s happening is abuse. This is because some adults will trick a child into thinking that they have said to ‘yes’ to what’s happening or that it is fun to take part in, or even good for them.

It may be that they believe, or are told that, they owe someone something, so they feel they need to do what the adult asks.  This is known as being ‘groomed’.

They might threaten the child with violence if they say 'no'. Or sometimes the adult might not be violent, but they can try to get your child to do things in other ways – for example, making your child feel really guilty or buying your child gifts and presents.

CSE Toolkit - Supporting Parents and Carers

Remember: none of this is ever your child's fault and they are not alone.

Is my child being exploited? +

Are you worried about a friend? There are some key signs that you can look out for that might tell you that something’s not right:

  • Are they late a lot or not around when you expect them to be?
  • Do they have unexplained gifts, or things like new clothes and more money than usual?
  • Are they spending more time than usual on their phone, or using it secretively?
  • Are they regularly drunk or taking drugs?
  • Are they spending time with much older people they say are friends?
  • Are they being picked up from home or school by someone you don’t know? Maybe someone much older?
  • Are they into different hobbies and activities?
  • Has the way they dress changed?
  • Do they have unexplained bruises or injuries?
  • Could they be self-harming?

If you notice any of these warning signs in your child, we can offer you some advice and support on what to do next.

What to do if you are worried +

Your child can talk to someone they trust or respect about how they are feeling – a youth worker, friend or family member or even a teacher. Talking can help them get a handle on whether what they feel is right and whether other people think it's OK.

Remember: if they’re being exploited, it is never their fault and they’re not alone.

How can you get help?

The Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) didn't know leaflet.

If you think your child is being exploited or abused, help is available. You can contact the police direct on 101 or 999 if they are in immediate danger. You can also ring Childline for help and advice on 0800 11 11.

If you would prefer not to speak to the police you can contact Children's Services. The team to call are called the MARU and can be contacted on 0300 123 1116 during the day or 01208 251 300 after 5pm and at weekends.

Barnardo's Exceed
This service
offers independent support and information for young people aged 8 to 25 across Devon and Cornwall who are experiencing or might experience sexual exploitation: www.barnardosexceed.org.uk.

Report it -

You don’t have to be absolutely certain; if you’re concerned a child is being exploited or their safety is at risk, speak to someone.

You can report your concern to the Multi-Agency Referral Unit who will consider what information should be provided and decide what steps to take next.

The information you provide, not matter how small or insignificant you think it is, could be the missing piece of information needed to keep a child or young person safe from harm.

If you are worried about a child or young adult who is in immediate danger, please call 999 and speak to the police.

Tackling child exploitation is everyone’s responsibility.


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