‘Only girls are at risk.’ ‘All offenders are old men.’ ‘It happens over a long period.’ Just some of the many myths that surround child sexual exploitation.


During the pandemic

We are all spending more time online for learning, working and socialising. This means that we are all at increased risk of harms that can occur online. More information is available on how to keep yourself and your child safe in the digital environment.

Here, we help separate fact from fiction.

Abuse is in some way your child's fault

The only person to blame for any kind of abuse is the offender themselves. It is never the child’s fault. Most likely though, the offender will tell your child differently, making them believe that they are to blame or that they are in a loving, supportive relationship making it even harder for them to tell you about the situation and ask for your help.

It's only young girls that are at risk

Every child or young person under the age of 18 is at risk from child sexual exploitation. Boy or girl. Gay, straight, bisexual or transgender. Happy at home or experiencing difficulties. The only common link is that abusers often look for someone who appears vulnerable.

This might simply be someone talking about having a tough time at school or home or who’s fallen out with friends.

Young people with learning disabilities can sometimes be particularly vulnerable, with offenders understanding that their challenges might make them less likely to understand what’s really going on.

Offenders are dirty old men

Just as any child or young person is at risk, so too their offenders can be young or old, male or female, gay or straight and from any background. All however are clever and calculating.

They’ll appear friendly and caring towards their victim in a deliberate move to gain their friendship and trust.

Offenders take a long time to groom their victim

Once, offenders would take time to build up a relationship with – or ‘groom’ – their victim. If this happens online they’d then ask to meet up in real life with the intention of abusing the child or young person. Increasingly however, offenders are more interested in photos or videos of their victim.

They might start up a general conversation with your child on social media or in a chat room in order to get them to talk about sex. This could begin with a question that seems innocent such as asking them what they like about their body or how they feel about a certain girl or boy they know. Very quickly however, it can lead to more serious talk and the request for a photo or video.

Asking for a naked photo or video isn't really abuse

Offenders are clever. They know how to ask for naked photos or videos in a way that will make your child feel attractive, admired, excited, proud of how grown up they are, maybe even a little bit naughty. They also know that your child probably won’t be aware that, once online, it can be very easy to share photos or videos with other offenders – or use those photos or videos to blackmail your child into sending more.

It only happens to 'looked after' children or children in authority care

Despite media reporting children and young people living at home can be just as vulnerable.

It only happens in certain ethnic or cultural communities

Both offenders and victims are known to come from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds and are not restricted to British, Pakistani, Muslim males or young white British girls.