Posted: 09 November 2015

It’s not consent, its sexual exploitation

For 16 and 17 year olds it’s Seriously Awkward

It’s a shocking but true fact that, because of their awkward age, many older teenagers are unrecognised and unprotected as victims of sexual offences. 

While 16 and 17 year olds can legally consent to sex in healthy relationships, there is nothing healthy or normal about being coerced or groomed and made to submit to sexual acts. 

As our new report ‘Old Enough to Know Better? Why sexually exploited older teenagers are being overlooked’ shows, this age group are often blamed for putting themselves in risky situations, even when they have been specifically targeted and groomed through the use of drugs and alcohol.

We know from our frontline services that too often older teenagers are dismissed as ‘old enough to know better’, when in reality victims of sexual exploitation are commonly the most vulnerable – those in the care system, with backgrounds of abuse and neglect, or with mental health problems.

This is unacceptable – as the Children Act 1989 makes clear, a child is anyone under 18 and as such they need protection, not blame.

Unreported and Unprotected

Our report exposes how huge numbers of sex crimes against 16 and 17 year olds went unreported in the last year because victims were gripped by the fear of not being believed and suspicious of the justice system.

Because of their awkward age, 16 and 17 year olds are too often not seen as victims who need help and support.

'I would say that when you put a ‘welcome’ mat in the front of your house, no one blames you for being robbed, so there’s no point blaming yourself for what you wear or who you hang around with.' Quote from a young person supported by The Children’s Society.

This is a massive concern.  As we know from national scandals like those in Rochdale, Rotherham and Oxford, widespread negative attitudes towards the victims, and ignorance among professionals about the signs of grooming and exploitation, meant that young people were not listened to and didn’t have the confidence to speak out.

This must change

As campaigners, we stand together and speak out against injustices like this. Right now, we have an opportunity to get this issue raised by our MPs in parliament, to call on the Home Secretary to take action.

The Government must give police the same tools to intervene when a 16 or 17 year old is being targeted and groomed for exploitation as younger children.

There needs to be clear guidance in place so that professionals can identify when someone is a victim and work together to put protection and support in place.

The law needs to send a strong message that sexual crimes against all children – including older teenagers – will not be tolerated.

You can help us make this happen, join the campaign. 

Take action today

By Amy Gibbs - Campaigns team

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Are 16 and 17 year olds old enough to know better?

Posted: 3 November 2015


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From child prostitution to child sexual exploitation

Posted: 4 November 2015