Signs of child sexual grooming are 'overlooked'

Tell-tale signs of child sexual grooming are being overlooked, a leading charity warned today.

Barnardo's said just two in five parents believed children were being sexually exploited where they live, despite the prevalence of the problem across the UK.

It urged parents, professionals and young people to be aware of the signs, which can include children going missing for long periods, regularly returning home late, appearing with unexpected gifts or associating with older teenagers or adults.

Anne Marie Carrie, the charity's chief executive, said: "This is a horrific and pernicious crime that everybody needs to be alive to.

"Vulnerable defenceless girls and boys, who crave love and attention, are groomed then abused in the most callous and calculated way, leaving them deeply traumatised and scarred for life.

"Yet victims continue to go unidentified as tell-tale signs are overlooked. I want mothers, fathers, professionals and young people to have the confidence in spotting these signs. The earlier abuse is identified, the earlier we can stop it."

The poll of more than 1,100 parents also found less than half of parents were able to spot the more subtle signs of children being exploited, such as regularly returning home late (43%).

One in four fathers said they do not feel confident that they would spot whether the relationships their child has are dangerous, compared with one in six mothers.

A report by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop) in June found that key agencies involved in child protection have failed to put in place "basic processes" to stop sexual abuse.

There were 2,379 offenders recorded since the start of 2008, mostly men aged 18 to 24, the study found.

Victims are cut off from their normal support networks in the grooming process, are left "disorientated" and are emotionally manipulated as part of the abuse, Ceop said.

:: ComRes interviewed 1,147 GB parents online between August 3 and 7 2011.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high
How to find gold: The Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge

How to find gold

Steve Boggan finds himself in the Californian badlands, digging out crevasses and sifting sludge
Singing accents: From Herman's Hermits and David Bowie to Alesha Dixon

Not born in the USA

Lay off Alesha Dixon: songs sound better in US accents, even our national anthem
10 best balsamic vinegars

10 best balsamic vinegars

Drizzle it over salad, enjoy it with ciabatta, marinate vegetables, or use it to add depth to a sauce - this versatile staple is a cook's best friend
Wimbledon 2015: Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Brief glimpses of the old Venus but Williams sisters' epic wars belong to history

Serena dispatched her elder sister 6-4, 6-3 in eight minutes more than an hour
Greece says 'No': A night of huge celebrations in Athens as voters decisively back Tsipras and his anti-austerity stance in historic referendum

Greece referendum

Greeks say 'No' to austerity and plunge Europe into crisis
Ten years after the 7/7 terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?

7/7 bombings anniversary

Ten years after the terror attacks, is Britain an altered state?
Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has created

Versace haute couture review

Beautiful evening dresses are some of the loveliest Donatella has ever created
No hope and no jobs, so Gaza's young risk their lives, climb the fence and run for it

No hope and no jobs in Gaza

So the young risk their lives and run for it
Fashion apps: Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers

Fashion apps

Retailers roll together shopping and social networking for mobile customers
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy