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Protecting B.C.'s children and youth from sexual exploitation

  • Nov. 10, 2014 12:00 p.m.

Sexual exploitation can happen to anyone, but the average age when children are first exploited is 13 to 15 years old, making them particularly vulnerable to being victimized.

That is why the province is sharing important information about how to best protect children and youth from sexual exploitation.

Sexual exploitation is not just a big city issue. Perpetrators are active in both urban and rural communities, and they can target children and youth of different ages, genders, abilities, sexual orientations, and cultural and economic backgrounds. In fact, young men and women are equally at risk.

Young people can also be lured into sexually exploitative situations by people they meet in online settings. These situations include chat rooms and social networking websites.

Forms of sexual exploitation include the abuse of children and youth by those who are in positions of trust and authority, or upon whom the child is dependent.

It can also include control of survival needs, such as exchanging sexual acts for drugs or alcohol at parties, or for a ride, shelter, food, or other necessities. These hidden forms of sexual exploitation often go unnoticed and can be seen as “normal” by both victim and offender.

The Child, Family and Community Service Act (http://www.bclaws.ca/EPLibraries/bclaws_new/document/ID/freeside/00_96046_01) requires that anyone who has reason to believe that a child may be abused, neglected, or is for any other reason in need of protection, must report it to the Ministry of Children and Family Development or a delegated social worker at www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/child_protection/reportabuse.htm.

 

We can help

• Recognize that any sex act between youth and adults is abuse, regardless of a youth’s personal history and life experience. Many sexually exploited youth face drug use, homelessness, and past trauma that lead them to the survival sex trade.

• If you are a parent trying to get a child out of a sexually exploitative situation, don’t try to do it alone. Seek help and information.

• Speak to the youth in your life about healthy relationships and sexual exploitation, and tell them you are available to help or to talk if they have questions or need support.

• If you know a child who wants to leave an exploitative situation or needs protection, call the Helpline for Children at 310-1234 (no area code required). This number will connect you with a child welfare worker at any time.

• Tell police if you have heard or know about a recruiter for human trafficking working in your community.

• For more information on steps you can take to report abuse, visit

www.mcf.gov.bc.ca/child_protection/pdf/handbook_action_child_abuse.pdf.

Help is available at any time to victims of crime in the province through VictimLink BC, a toll-free, confidential telephone service available 24 hours a day, seven days a week in more than 110 languages at 1-800-563-0808 (www.victimlinkbc.ca).

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