'This report is a sobering reminder that child sexual exploitation tragically remains a widespread problem that can happen to any child, in any community. It shows that this is clearly not an historic problem, confined to the culture and attitudes of the past.
'The numbers in this report are shocking, yet they may only represent the tip of the iceberg. Way too many victims are still going undetected.
'Let down by the professionals that are there to protect them'
'We work with hundreds of child victims of sexual exploitation up and down the country every year. Far too often they tell us that they have been let down by the very professionals and systems that are supposed to be protecting them. Sadly, our evidence points to this being a particularly big problem for teenage girls.
'On the front line we still see some professionals label teenage girls as ‘promiscuous’ or ‘streetwise’, instead of treating them as very vulnerable victims of sexual abuse. This has been graphically highlighted by recent cases like those in Rochdale and Rotherham.
'Particularly worrying is that more than a third of children at high risk of child sexual exploitation are in the care system. This report also reveals the high prevalence of sexual exploitation victims running away from home or care.
'Urgent action is needed to challenge outdated attitudes that allow child sexual exploitation to continue undetected - and unpunished – across the country.'
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Notes to editors
- The Children’s Society has several programmes throughout England that work directly with young children at risk of sexual exploitation, including those at risk on the street and children in care. We have campaigned for more than 25 years for greater protection for children at risk of sexual exploitation, particularly those that run away from home or care.
- Our Still Running III research shows that 100,000 children run away every year in the UK and that one in four of these will be the victim of a harmful of dangerous experience.
- Our Make Runaways Safe campaign calls for local authorities and police forces to put in place a safety net for the 100,000 children that run away from home by signing the Runaways Charter.
- We supported the All Party Parliamentary Group inquiry into children that run away from home or care, which found that attitudes among professionals were a barrier in tackling sexual exploitation, particularly among teenage girls.
- The Children’s Society wants to create a society where children and young people are valued, respected and happy. We are committed to helping vulnerable and disadvantaged young people, including children in care and young runaways. We give a voice to disabled children, help young refugees to rebuild their lives and provide relief for young carers. Through our campaigns and research, we seek to influence policy and perceptions so that young people have a better chance in life.