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The editorial team warmly welcome Mrs. Professor Lena Dominelli, and Mr. Professor Malcolm Payne, two prominent internationally social work personalities who have kindly accepted to be part of our journal’s International Advisory Board starting with issue no. 1/2010.
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Homepage > Archive > Numar: 1 > Comparing the Cultural Factors in the Sexual Exploitation of Young People in the UK and USA: Insights for Social Workers

 Comparing the Cultural Factors in the Sexual Exploitation of Young People in the UK and USA: Insights for Social Workers

  • Sarah Hayes (Social Work, Institute of Health and Society, University of Worcester WR2 6AJ, UK)
  • Peter Unwin (University of Worcester, Social Work, Institute of Health and Society, Worcester WR2 6AJ, UK, E-mail:

Across both the UK and the USA, knowledge about the abuse of children and young people through sexual exploitation has developed rapidly over the past decade. Both countries have reached a consensus at the legislative level that victims of child sexual exploitation (CSE) are first and foremost victims of serious sexual forms of abuse. The perpetrators of CSE take advantage of economic, cognitive, social and emotional vulnerability to obtain sex. The exploitation frequently, but not exclusively, involves commercial gain and the presence of the victim’s ‘consent’ is no longer considered a vindication of such abuse. CSE is above all a cultural phenomenon. It begins with beliefs that normalise or deny the seriousness of the sexual exploitation taking place. This is true not only for the individuals directly involved but also relates to the attitudes held by some professionals. Positioning CSE as illegal and socially unacceptable has to occur not only at the legislative level but also in respect of professional agencies, communities, social networks and families. In practice, protecting young people from sexual exploitation is complex and the subjectivities within professional approaches need to be acknowledged. It is recommended that professionals across social services, policing, health and education receive core training to enable a consistently non-discriminatory and research-informed response to CSE. Social workers are well-placed to lead and co-ordinate such responses, particularly if there are adequate and effective resources in place. Providing a consistent and trustworthy therapeutic relationship is fundamental to the worker being able to work with a young person affected by CSE. Conclusions are that the domestic sexual exploitation and trafficking discourses developed in the UK and USA could be informative for other countries, such as those of Eastern Europe. Finally, the importance of sharing insights between countries is recommended to make us all better equipped to protect our young people from sexual exploitation and trafficking.

Keywords: Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children (CSEC), Domestic Minor Sex Trafficking (DMST), Internal Child Sex Trafficking (ICST)