Children at risk of sexual exploitation maybe being missed as some front-line workers are stereotyping victims, warns Barnardo’s in a report published today, on National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day.

The report, entitled ‘It’s not on the radar’ says a better understanding of the diversity of CSE victims in England is essential to tackling this vile form of child abuse, so professionals identify all children who have been sexually exploited, or are at risk.

Children, young people and parents also need to be more aware that not every CSE case is like the high profile ones in Rotherham, Rochdale and Oxford where most of the perpetrators were males and the victims young, white girls.

Evidence in the study shows child sexual exploitation (CSE) affects children regardless of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, faith, disability, background or upbringing. For example, children and young people with a disability are three times more likely to be abused than children without a disability; while young people questioning their sexuality and searching for advice may be more vulnerable to being groomed online.

Children are equally likely to be targeted, regardless of of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, faith, disability, background or upbringing.

The report recommends that professionals receive more appropriate training to help them identify children who have experienced, or are at risk of CSE and it wants relevant organisations to work better together.

It also calls for school lessons to focus on healthy relationships to help children feel more confident in being able to identify possible risky situations, while families and communities must be more aware of CSE.

Barnardo’s chief executive, Javed Khan said: “This horrific form of child abuse can affect any child or young person. One in five children we help in our own services are male victims of this crime.

“Assumptions must not be made when trying to identify sexual exploitation as each victim has their own vulnerabilities. Recognising the diversity of victims will help ensure they are identified and get the right support.”

Today is National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day, a day dedicated to raising awareness of Child Sexual Exploitation. Together, we can work to inform, educate and prevent this form of child sexual abuse within the UK.

Some of the key signs to look out for include:

– Regularly missing from home or school and staying out all night
– Changes in behaviour – becoming aggressive and disruptive or quiet and withdrawn.
– Unexplained gifts or new possessions such as clothes, jewellery, mobile phones or money that can’t be accounted for.
– Increase in mobile phone use or secretive use
– Appearing to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol
– Being picked up or dropped off in cars by unknown adults
– A significantly older ‘boyfriend’ or ‘friend’ or lots of new friends
– Spending excessive amount of time online and becoming increasingly secretive about time spent online
– Sudden involvement in criminal behaviour
– Sexual health problems