Childline counsels rising number of NI children about sexual exploitation

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Tuesday, November 19th, 2019

Childline’s annual report has revealed the service carried out 140 counselling sessions in the last year (2018/19) with children from Northern Ireland who have been sexually exploited – up 44% on the previous year.

In the total number of counselling sessions from Northern Ireland about sexual abuse (244) exploitation featured in more than half.

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The true scale of the contacts will almost certainly be higher as almost a fifth of children contacting the service across the UK about child sexual exploitation (CSE) did not reveal where they were from. 



In 60% of counselling sessions, young people from Northern Ireland disclosed they were targeted online – including through social media or video games – often by their peers or people known to them.

Most commonly children from Northern Ireland received help from Childline because they had been tricked into sending naked images or videos of themselves or had been in contacted or groomed by someone wanting to sexually exploit them.

Young people told Childline their experience with CSE included receiving affection or gifts in exchange for performing sexual activities.

Others were persuaded to share sexual images online and then threatened the images would be shared with friends or family.



An 18-year-old girl revealed to Childline, “When I was younger I kept going online to talk to people mainly because I felt so alone. 

“Some older guys started chatting to me and I sent nude pictures and videos of myself to them. I got compliments and didn’t know how to say no.

“Most of them knew I was just 13 and some of them threatened to post the pictures online if I didn’t send more. I feel sick just thinking about it and feel so insecure about this all coming back to haunt me,” she added.

Mairead Monds, Childline Service manager for Belfast, said, “Sadly, we are hearing from young people every day who are being manipulated or blackmailed into carrying out sexual acts.



“For many, this impacts their mental health and leaves them feeling isolated from the people closest to them. Some turn to self-harm, alcohol or substance misuse as ways of coping with their experiences.

“Everyone must be prepared to confront this problem, from government right through to schools, parents, professionals, and us at Childline.

“The Department of Education should build on existing good practice and developments to ensure teachers are confident to teach Relationships and Sexuality Education and Childline needs more volunteers to make sure they can be there for every child who need our help, at all times of day and night,” she added.



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