One in nine teenagers in Northern Ireland have been sexually groomed by an adult, according to research published today.
Three-quarters of the teenagers were under 16 when the abuse occurred. Half said their abuser was at least seven years older than them.
A total of 786 teenagers responded to the 2010 Young Life and Times (YLT) survey, an annual survey of 16-year-olds by Queen’s University and the University of Ulster designed to provide an insight into the lives of teenagers across Northern Ireland. This year, for the first time, questions about sexual grooming and exploitation were included.
The survey also revealed one in 15 teenagers, two-thirds of whom were under 16, had been plied with drugs or alcohol before being sexually exploited. One in 20 had been bribed or manipulated into taking part in sexual activity. Almost two-thirds (62%) had not confided in any authority figure about the exploitation they had suffered.
Over half were initially contacted on the street, through a friend or sibling, or in a pub or nightclub, while 17% per cent were first approached online.
Dr Dirk Schubotz, from the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Queen’s University and the director of YLT, said: “For the first time here, the YLT survey addressed issues of sexual grooming and exploitation. The fact that a sizable proportion of respondents had been affected by grooming or attempts to take advantage of them sexually, mostly before they had reached the age of consent, reminds us about the vulnerability of young people.”
He added: “On a general level, the survey reflects how the effects of the economic crisis are now felt by the great majority of young people. With regard to the Northern Ireland dimension, the data suggests the majority of young people recognise positive changes in Northern Ireland society. However, only about one in ten respondents are satisfied with the Northern Ireland government.”
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