Sexually-exploited children are calling NSPCC's childline for help 12 times a day

Telegraph 3 weeks ago

Up to 12 children a day are contacting the NSPCC’s Childline after being sexually exploited, a 16 per cent rise in a year, new figures reveal.

Childline, the charity’s round the clock service, delivered 4,500 counselling sessions last year to children who were forced or coerced into sexual activity, up from 3,895 in the previous year.

The youngest victim was aged just nine.

The children were most commonly forced to perform or watch sexual acts or persuaded to send naked images or videos. Some were blackmailed after being threatened with the images being shared with their family or friends.

In more than a third of the sessions the children were targeted online usually through social media or video games.

One victim, Lucy, described how she was approached at the age of 10  in an internet chatroom by a 30-year-old man who “mirrored” all her interests in order to win over her confidence. “If there was something I loved, he would say he was interested in it,” she said.

“It would be odd for an adult male to have the same interests as a 10 year old but, as a 10 year old, you don’t recognise that as grooming,” said Lucy, who ended up being sexually abused by the man after being persuaded to meet up with him.

Another boy aged 15 told Childline: “I think I have been groomed and I am really scared. I was talking to this guy online and we were having a laugh. Things got a bit sexual but I ignored it. He asked me to play a video game so we did.”

He was persuaded to hand over his phone number, adding: “The next time we were online gaming he started saying things that made me feel really uncomfortable. He told me he would pay me to do sexual stuff and was talking very sexually.”

Sexual exploitation is defined by the NSPCC as grooming, sharing and receiving sexual images, sex harassment, or engaging in sexual online activity. It accounted for half of the 8,841 counselling sessions delivered for sexually-abused children.

Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said the rise in exploitation could be partly attributed to the explosion in online site.

“There are so many places online whether gaming or on social media where predators can spot vulnerable young people quite easily and engage in grooming behaviour,” he said.

He believed the NSPCC was also improving the way it recorded such activity and that children were more confident about reporting such approaches.

The NSPCC wants the Government to introduce comprehensive training for teachers so they can deliver efffective lessons about healthy relationships, consent and sex.


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