Unhealthy relationships and relationship abuse

If you work or come into contact with young people in a school setting, whether in a an employed or voluntary capacity, then you have a duty of care towards them.

There is no specific offence for ‘child sexual exploitation.’ Therefore perpetrators can be convicted of a range of offences under the Sexual Offences Act 2003, and fall under section 47 the Children’s Act 1989 – ‘reasonable cause to suspect that a child who lives, or is found in their area is suffering, or is likely to suffer significant harm.’

These include:

• Sexual activity with a child

• Possessing indecent images of children

• Making indecent images of a child

• Inciting a child to engage in sexual activity

• Abuse of position of trust

• Administering a substance with intent to commit a sexual abuse

What you need to do:

• You need to stay alert to changes in behaviour or any physical signs of abuse and know your agency's safeguarding processes.

• Understand the law around consent.

• Be confident in talking about relationships, exploitation and your concerns with children and other professionals.

• Understand your agency's safeguarding procedure and how to put it into action


Age is an indicator of risk

No, age is not an indicator of risk. Remember to be alert to signs of CSE in younger children and those nearing 18.

It can be the child’s fault sometimes

No, it’s never the child’s fault, ever. CSE offenders are often skilled at targeting and grooming children.

Act on it! Report it!

If you have concerns that a child you know may be a victim of child sexual exploitation, act immediately. Complete a Risk Factor Matrix (RFM) and follow your agency’s internal safeguarding procedures. If you need support you can speak to your designated safeguarding lead, Catch22 or utilise the process flowchart within the RFM to identify your local authority CSE contact

As soon as you identify concerns you should begin to act to safeguard the child. If you are aware that the child is known to children’s social care, make contact with their worker to discuss your concerns, there may already be an RFM in place which your concerns and any information you have can contribute to. If you don’t have this information, or the child is not known, complete a RFM and submit to relevant agencies as per the process flowchart within the document.

To achieve best practice, you should complete the RFM with the child present and engaged, reflecting their thoughts and feelings throughout.

Police, Fire and Rescue and A&E staff – you are encouraged to complete the RFM in as much detail as possible. However, forms will be accepted from the above agencies with mandatory information on pages 1-3 completed.

If a child is at immediate risk of harm call 999


If you’re still struggling with consent just imagine instead of initiating sex you’re making them a cup of tea. This video from Thames Valley Police explains consent in very simple terms.

Copyright © 2015 RockStarDinosaurPiratePrincess and Blue Seat Studios. Images are Copyright ©2015 Blue Seat Studios

Grooming - What is it?

Grooming is when someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or trafficking.

Grooming can happen over a short period of time, or be part of a long series of interactions.

Those who groom children can be male or female and could be any age; it’s often difficult for children identify that they have been groomed or that what has happened is abuse.

It can happen:

  • Face-to-face
  • Online
  • By a stranger or by someone they know

More about Grooming

The NSPCC provide this excellent 'Grooming at-a-glance' resource about grooming

Grooming parties

One of the ways that unhealthy relationships can lead to something even worse - sexual exploitation and abuse - is through ‘grooming parties.’

Any young person can be groomed, and because of peer pressure, being frightened, feeling like they owe someone or just feeling out of control, they have sex against their will.

Any child, of any age and any background can be sexually exploited, regardless of their gender of sexuality or their social or ethnic background. Offenders can be any adults or even young people, and are skilled at targeted and grooming young people.

Coming soon: Rebecca’s Party - A new resource for all professionals to support young people to avoid sexual exploitation at parties.

Rebecca’s Story is a new resource for schools to help them explore with their pupils (Year 9 and upwards) how to keep safe at parties. Young people often go to parties of people they don’t really know.

The story begins online, where ‘Stu’ starts to take an interest in Rebecca. Rebecca agrees to go to Stu’s party because she knows an older girl that’s started talking to her and is friends with Stu. There she drinks and even takes drugs because of peer pressure. The video ends with a question to the viewer ‘’What would you do?’’

Teachers should use the video along with a classroom pack that helps young people to spot the dangers and explore how to keep themselves safe.

All schools in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent have the opportunity to use these new materials which will be rolled out over 2019. The new materials are in the final stages of testing, but you can sign up now to get information on how to download and use the new materials from the summer term, 2019.

What do the Rebecca’ Party materials aim to do?

Support young people from Year 9 to:

• understand the risks of parties

• spot how grooming parties can be different than other parties

• explore and develop tactics to keep themselves safe

Further Resources to help you

Use the right language

Your language can make a child feel believed and safe or blamed.

Make sure you are offering the best possible service to children you work with by thinking about the words you use.

Download the ‘Appropriate Language: Child sexual and/or Criminal Exploitation, Guide for Professionals here’ to get tips to support the child in the best way.

Stop the Trafficking leaflets

Five leaflets targeted at young people to help them recognise if they are being exploited, living in slavery or being trafficked.

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