Child sexual exploitation is still ‘woefully under-reported’ in the UK, the NSPCC has warned.
The charity said many young victims don’t understand that what is happening to them is grooming and exploitation, because offenders use manipulative tactics.
It is now calling on concerned adults to raise the alarm if they suspect a young person might be in danger.
Nearly 2,000 of the country’s most vulnerable youngsters have been helped by the Protect and Respect service it set up in 2011.
NSPCC Chief Executive Peter Wanless said: ‘Young people will not always recognise that they are being exploited and treated as property.
‘We want every child to be able to spot exploitation for what it is and, if they find themselves in danger, know that it is categorically not their fault.
‘Our Protect and Respect service is showing them how to spot potential abusers, find their way out of an exploitative cycle and help them on the road to recovery.
‘We are imploring any adult who suspects a child is being exploited to pick up the phone and call the NSPCC Helpline.
‘This abuse is sadly still woefully under-reported and, for us to help these children, we need people to speak up.’
Launched in November 2011, Protect and Respect is open to children and teenagers aged 10 to 19, and works with agencies such as the police and social services to identify and support youngsters who have been sexually exploited or are at risk of falling victim.
The services has directly helped 1,866 children and young people so far, including 1,493 kids between the ages of 10 and 15.
Earlier this year ministers unveiled plans for a new £40million attack on child exploitation.
The drive includes the launch of a new centre of expertise and plans to create a new national database of missing people.
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