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The first week in November is Crime Prevention Week in British Columbia and the province is sharing information about protecting youth from sexual exploitation.
Sexual exploitation can happen to anyone and the average age when children are first exploited is 13 to 15 years old. Sexual exploitation can happen in any community, not just in big cities and perpetrators target both children and youth of all ages, genders and economic backgrounds. Young males and females are at equal risk of being lured into a sexually exploitative situation by people they meet in online settings including chat rooms and social networking websites.
Forms of exploitation can come from those in a position of trust and authority, or someone who the child is dependent. It can also come in the form of needs, such as exchanging sexual acts for drugs or alcohol at parties, 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.
By recognizing these signs as a form of abuse, people can help those in a vulnerable situation in several ways. Seeking out information and help is the first steps to lending support or helping someone leave an exploitative situation. The Helpline for Children has been set up by the province and can be dialed at 310-1234 and will connect you with a child welfare working at any time.
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.