Child sexual exploitation: a guide for health practitioners

Guidelines for health practitioners on identifying and responding to a child or young person who may be at risk of or affected by sexual exploitation.

5. Barriers to disclosing

"It was just the norm for me sort of so I didn't think anything was sort of wrong with what was going on until I'd gotten older." [4]

Due to the complex nature of this abuse, a child or young person may not be willing to disclose that he/she is being exploited. Reasons for not disclosing include:

  • Not being aware that they are being exploited (for instance they may feel that there are in a consensual relationship with a perpetrator). Although often older, the perpetrator may be of similar age to the victim.
  • Fear that perceived benefits of exploitation may outweigh the risks e.g. loss of: supply of alcohol, drugs; the "relationship" and associated "love" and attention;
  • Fear of retribution or that situation could get worse;
  • Fear of violence within exploitative relationship;
  • Shame;
  • Fear of not being believed;
  • Fear of labelling e.g. as a prostitute or gay;
  • Fear of separation from family ;
  • Loss of control; fear of Police involvement and court proceedings.

"I didn't want to cause anyone any distress, and I certainly didn't want to be err, found out. I suppose. And so, that's why I only told them a very small part of the story to start with, And that, the reaction to that was bad enough, so I umm, I would never have considered police involvement. Even if I was old enough to think about it." [5]


Email: Katrina McDonald

Phone: 0300 244 4000 - Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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