The Lasting Effects Of Sexual Exploitation

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) isn’t just a one size fits all phenomenon. There isn’t one specific type of person who it will happen to, and there isn’t one specific type of person who commits the crime either. It makes it harder to identify, harder to convict people for, and harder to deal with the consequences of. There’s not just one way in which victims might suffer after the event has taken place. And while some might be able to fully deal with and recover from their experiences, more often it will have underlying implications on that person and their relationships for the rest of their life.

Firstly, what exactly is sexual exploitation? Would you know if it had happened to you? Could it have already happened?


The Definition

Sexual exploitation is a process by which someone will receive a gift of some kind in exchange for them performing a sexual activity – or a sexual activity being performed on them. These gifts can be anything from food and accommodation to drugs or alcohol. It can also be money or even affection. By withholding these commodities the person being exploited relies on them more and therefore is more likely to do what is asked of them, even if they don’t want to or feel really uncomfortable.

It might be that while originally the person is happy and maybe even in a relationship with that individual, but somewhere down the line something shifts, and the relationship becomes abusive or exploitative in some way. It’s quite common that someone will pretend to be kind and loving before they begin sexual exploitation, in order to lure a young or vulnerable person into a difficult situation.

While it’s impossible to get any real indication about just how many people in the UK have fallen victim to sexual exploitation, there are a high number. It is often considered a hidden problem. The victims may be too embarrassed to tell anyone and so it can carry on for years without support or help. Even if the victim would want to tell someone, they might be threatened or blackmailed by the person who is exploiting them.

It is a major child protection issue in the UK and further afield – in 2012 Barnardo’s alone dealt with 1940 children and young people who had been sexually exploited, but the actual numbers are likely to be much higher. An inquiry identified that there were 16500 child at high risk of exploitation between April 2010 and March 2011, for example.


What Is The Impact?

The damage inflicted by sexual exploitation is rarely short term or forgotten, it can impact the rest of the victim’s life just like those who have been in abusive relationships. Memories can be repressed, as with any kind of trauma.

It has been observed that a high proportion of adults working in prostitutions report problems faced in childhood. This can be anything from struggling at school, to neglect, emotional or sexual abuse.

As mentioned, it causes significant and lasting damage to physical and mental wellbeing. The mental damage tends to be much more problematic in the long term. This can lead to difficulties forming any sort of relationship due to a lack of trust. You may also be lacking in confidence and self-esteem. There are ways to help people who have been victim to CSE. Contact the Rose Campaign, or services such as the NSPCC or Barnardo’s. If possible the best thing to do is to speak to someone who is you trust and who is able to give you simple advice”.