Exploitation Awareness Day

The 18th March marks Child Exploitation Awareness Day, where we raise issues related to exploitation and encourage everyone to think, spot, and speak out against abuse. In Newcastle, we would also want to highlight that exploitation can, and does, happen to adults. Please visit our Report a Concern page to find out how you can report concerns of exploitation in Newcastle. If someone is in immediate danger, please contact emergency services.

Staff working in the multi-agency Exploitation Hub share some key messages for Child Exploitation Awareness Day

Exploitation can take many forms

Exploitation is when a child or adult is controlled by an abuser who might use coercion, intimidation, violence (including sexual violence) and weapons to do so.  People who experience exploitation can be children, young people or adults, male or female. Those who perpetrate exploitation are often male, but women and girls are known to be perpetrators too. People who experience and perpetrate exploitation are known to come from a variety of ethnic/cultural backgrounds. Exploitation can and does happen in all parts of the country, whether in large towns/cities or rural areas. Children and adults are groomed and exploited in many different ways e.g. online, gangs, “boyfriend”, street, celebrity, religion. Perpetrators may work together in groups or alone.

You might hear about the following types of exploitation:

  • Sexual exploitation – (often referred to as Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) when related to children/young people) is when someone takes advantage of a person sexually. Through threats, bribes, violence, humiliation, or by telling the victim that they love them, they force the victim to do sexual things for their own or other people’s benefit or enjoyment (including: touching or kissing private parts, sex or taking sexual photos.)
  • County Lines – where illegal drugs are transported from one area to another, often across police and local authority boundaries (although not exclusively), usually by children or vulnerable people who are coerced into it by gangs. The ‘County Line’ is the mobile phone line used to take the orders of drugs.
  • “Cuckooing”/home invasion/trap houses – involves gangs using violence and abuse to target the homes of vulnerable people and use them as bases for crime, often drug dealing. Conditions can be squalid.
  • Modern Slavery – the severe exploitation of other people for personal or commercial gain. People can become entrapped making our clothes, serving our food, picking our crops, working in factories, or working in houses as cooks, cleaners or nannies. It can include sexual exploitation and trafficking.
  • Trafficking – The use of violence, threats or coercion to transport, recruit or harbour people in order to exploit them for purposes such as forced prostitution, labour, criminality, marriage or organ removal.
  • Financial – including debt bondage, forced begging or criminality (e.g. pick pocketing/shoplifting), fraud.

What to look out for

  • New places – discovering a child or adult has been going to new places where they have no obvious connections.
  • Online use – someone spending more time online. Secretive activity, refusal to come offline. Have they distanced themselves from family, friends and usual activities?
  • Injuries or other health concerns – unexplained bruises, cuts, burns, marks, multiple miscarriages or terminations, sexually transmitted infections. The child or adult might be reluctant to seek medical attention.
  • Coping mechanisms – alcohol, drug use, self-harm – what they may be doing or using in order to cope.
  • Possessions – unexplained items or money. It might include new clothing, phones or drugs.
  • Change in friends – sudden changes in who a person is “hanging out” with, including meeting new people from social media.
  • Change in behaviour – Have they become unusually secretive, fearful or withdrawn, aggressive, distanced themselves from family and friends, involved in criminal activity?
  • Change in appearance – might include changes to what a person wears, their personal hygiene, talking differently, being tired.
  • Missing day or night – missing from home, education or employment. Not knowing where they are or who they with.

Encouraging people to seek help and support

There are many reasons why people will not, or feel they cannot, speak about their experiences or seek help and support so it is important to build trust to enable this to happen.

  • Always be alert to the possibility that an individual could be experiencing exploitation, regardless of their age or gender, and be prepared to offer support.
  • When someone is hard to engage with, the person with the best relationship with them should lead discussions.
  • Ensure professional interpreters are used, never use family members, children or friends where exploitation is known or suspected.
  • Only ask questions about exploitation when victims are on their own and in a private place.

Further information and resources

Anti-slavery International (Modern Slavery)

Edge North East (mentoring for young people involved with serious youth violence and criminal exploitation)

National Working Group (NWG, Tackling Child Exploitation)