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How to keep your children and young people safe from exploitation and abuse

How to keep your children and young people safe from exploitation and abuse


Exploitation is a form of abuse. Child exploitation occurs when an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person into an activity that results in financial or other advantage for the perpetrator or facilitator. 

Specific types of exploitation include, Modern slavery including human trafficking, Sexual exploitation, Criminal Exploitation and Radicalisation.

Multiple types of exploitation can occur alongside one another or as part of other forms of abuse. 


It important to understand the stages of grooming, to be aware of how children and young people are targeted, how to tailor support and what support you may need to provide.  By understanding what stage a child or young person is at means you can look at the support that is needed for that child or young person.

Those (individuals and groups) that intend and/or cause harm to children and young people through exploitation take advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive the child(ren) and young person. This process is called “grooming”. It is important that those working with children and young people understand how children and young people are groomed so that they can prevent, identify, and disrupt exploitation. 

There are four stages of grooming as outlined below:

  1. The Targeting stage

This is when a person or gang target a child or young person who is vulnerable, as this reduces their chances of getting caught. Signs of this stage include a person or group:

  • Observing you, finding out your vulnerabilities, needs and wants
  • Glamourising their lifestyle to you
  • Gaining and developing your trust
  • Sharing information about you with other members of their gang
  • Recruiting you to their gang or friendship group

2. Experience stage

This stage is where this person might try to get you used to their lifestyle or train you up in what they’re doing. At this stage a person or gang might:

  • Make you feel wanted
  • Give you gifts and rewards
  • Test out your loyalty
  • Offer you protection
  • Relate to you and offer you advice
  • Give you a sense of belonging
  • Give you a weapon
  • Introduce you to more established member of their gang

3. Hooked stage

This is the stage where people make you feel like you’re a member of their gang, even though actually they’re just exploiting you for their own gain.  Signs of this stage include:

  • You getting more responsibilities within the group e.g. more money
  • You might be asked to commit low level crimes
  • You getting involved with trap houses
  • Asking you to recruit others to the gang
  • Engaging in activities such as drugs, alcohol or sexual behaviour

4.Trapped stage

Now you feel dependant on the group, the relationship with the person or group exploiting you may start to become unpleasant or they reveal their true intents or character. At this stage you may experience:

  • Threatening behaviour and physical violence
  • People playing on your guilt, shame and fear
  • Attempts to isolate you from your family, friends and society
  • People forcing you to abuse others, assault or even shoot people
  • Involvement in Class A drugs (cooking or running)


Push and Pull factors

Children and young people at risk of and experiencing exploitation may be subject to several factors that ‘push’ and ‘pull’ them out and away towards people and circumstances that increase their risk of being exploited.  

A ‘push’ factor increases a child and young person's vulnerability and pushes them away from sources of support and safety. 

A ‘pull’ factor encourages children and young people to move away from sources of support and safety.

Pull Factors

  • Being given presents or drugs
  • Being shown affection and care
  • Experiencing a sense of belonging
  • Having status in a group
  • Being offered help and protection
  • No conflict or rules
  • Excitement
  • A child or young person feeling like they are learning skills to make their own money and have a hope for the future

Push factors

  • Arguments or fights at home
  • Children or young people feeling they are not cared about or wanted at home
  • Lack of positive role models
  • Children or young people struggling with anxiety, depression or suicidal thoughts
  • Alcohol, drug or mental health issues for the child or young person's parents/carers
  • Going missing from home
  • Issues at school
  • Getting into trouble with the police
  • Feeling isolated

If you are concerned that a child or young person is at risk of exploitation or abuse contact their school or a Community Support Officer.