Forty per cent of sexually exploited children are also involved in youth offending, a new study has found.
Conducted by the University College London Jill Dando Institute of Security and Crime Science it found that:
● 40% of child sexual exploitation victims in Derby were involved in offending behaviour.
● 50% of the offending group had committed their first offence by 14 and 75% by 15.
● 70% of offenders re-offended, with one quarter committing 10 or more offences.
“It makes me really angry that young people are prosecuted for the symptoms of child exploitation,” said Sheila Taylor, chief executive of specialist child sexual exploitation organisation Safe and Sound Derby.
The study cited the example of two child victims. Both were exploited extensively by the same men. The first internalised the trauma and self-harmed. She was given a therapeutic care placement. The second externalised the trauma and hit a care worker. She was given a custodial sentence.
Evidence that some children were more afraid of retribution from their exploiters than the courts was also uncovered. “Several children breached curfews to meet their abusers, apparently terrified that if not, they would carry out threats of violence. Seeing their own exploitation go unpunished may have further weakened their faith in the justice system,” said the study authors.
“There is a need for better provisions for victims to help them break the cycle of offending and exploitation,” the study concluded. “Early intervention makes sense not just from a welfare point of view, but from a financial one too. Court cases are expensive and it costs around £185,000 to detain a young offender for a year. High rates of re-offending pay tribute to the fact that the current system seems to be offering too little, too late.”
They study’s authors believe that Derby is not a special case and their findings reflect a general trend.
A survey to be launched next week by the NSPCC will show that one in 20 children have experienced some form of sexual abuse by the time they reach 16.
A study due this month by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre will show that procedures to tackle child sexual exploitation in the UK are not working.
Speaking at Community Care’s conference on child sexual exploitation yesterday, Peter Davies, chief executive of CEOP, said: “Most local safeguarding children’s boards do not have the procedures in place to tackle child sexual exploitation. There is no more serious crime than the rape of children. I hope that in six months’ time we will have got our act together on tackling this issue.”
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