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Slipping Through The Net – 16 and 17 Year Old Victims of CSE

16 and 17 can be both exciting and anxious ages; about to become an adult but no longer a child, these teenagers are expected to make choices about what to do with their lives, and without the right support they could become vulnerable to CSE (child sexual exploitation).

The Children’s Society states on its website that:

“We know from our own specialist services that people who sexually exploit children particularly prey on the most vulnerable 16 and 17 year olds. They will go to great lengths to target vulnerable young people, using gifts, affection, money, alcohol, drugs – or the promise of love. Victims are commonly teenagers in the care system, with backgrounds of abuse and neglect, learning disabilities or with mental health problems.”

Children of any age can be victims of CSE, but young people aged 16 and 17 often find that even though children’s services have a duty to step in and provide support for them when they are experiencing serious difficulties in their lives, for many 16 and 17 year olds, support is too short term, does not help them prepare for adulthood and can disappear overnight when they reach 18.

16 and 17 year olds can legally consent to sex if they are within a healthy relationship, but because of this legality there is often a dangerous lack of understanding amongst professionals that these teenagers can also be groomed and exploited just as easily as younger children. Many older teens are not seen as victims, as it is assumed that they have ‘consented’ to their abuse.

The Law:

 

0 – 12   – Children this age are fully protected.  Sexual offences against any child under

13 are always crimes.

 

13 – 15 – Children aged 13 – 15 cannot legally consent to sex, they are protected, but

only if the defendant cannot reasonably believe the child was 16.  This is

thought of as the ‘grey age’.

 

16 – 17 – As this age group can legally consent to sex, they are only protected in very

limited circumstances e.g. cases of sexual abuse by a family member, person

in a position of trust, pornography or what used to be known  as ‘prostitution-

related’ offences.

16 and 17 year olds are just as likely to be referred into children’s services as younger children; clearly the level of need for older teens does not diminish as they approach adulthood.  However, the overall accepted referrals for this age group are 1 in 16.  Statistically, most of the most vulnerable 16 and 17 year olds may also be not in education, employment or training and potentially fall through the cracks in the services.

asphaleia’s safe project in West Sussex takes referrals for young people from the age of 10 up until 25.  We recognise and understand that just because the young person is an older teenager or even a young adult, this does not automatically make them less vulnerable to CSE and our support does not stop once they reach 18.

Do you know a young person aged 16 or 17, who needs support with a relationship, staying safe online or could be at risk of CSE?  To make a referral, or to find out more about our project and how we can help, please email kayjones@asphaleia.co.uk/ rubygarnham@asphaleia.co.uk or call us on 01903 522966.

  

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