In this section
- Factors increasing vulnerability to exploitation
Someone is vulnerable if, as a result of their situation or circumstances, they are unable to protect themselves or others from harm or exploitation (College of Policing).
The nature and extent of someone’s vulnerability can change over time, in response to social, environmental and personal factors.
Victims of exploitation are growing more diverse. People who may have been viewed as lower risk can easily be groomed and exploited. Often they will have been exposed to risk outside the home, for example through peer friendships and relationships – peer influences, the internet and social media are becoming key pathways into exploitation.
Factors increasing vulnerability to exploitation
Recent work by child safeguarding has identified the following critical moments that can increase vulnerability and risk around exploitation
- Exclusion or absence from education
- Presenting at a hospital or GP practice with injuries indicative of violence
- Entering the criminal justice system
Additional factors that can increase vulnerability to exploitation include
- being in care, or being a care leaver
- being involved with a gang
- factors that, in combination with other circumstances, may heighten someone’s vulnerability, for example a communication difficulty (this could be due to Speech, Language and Communication Needs, having English as an additional language or having a sensory impairment), having a learning disability, neurodiversity, experiencing mental health difficulties, experiencing drug or alcohol misuse, or experiencing financial difficulties.
- experiencing domestic violence – either as the subject of violence or as a witness
- experiencing past trauma or adversity, including experiences of neglect, abuse and violence
- experiencing peer pressure
- experiencing times of transition and change
- feeling socially isolated
- going missing
- having caring responsibilities
- having an illness, health condition or disability
- homelessness and living in insecure housing
- living in an unsafe or unstable home environment.
These experiences can have the following impacts
- increasing the level of risk people are exposed to in their daily lives
- the thought processes and behaviours developed to cope with difficult experiences can create or intensify vulnerability (for example, using drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism)
- exposure to challenging experiences may lead people to view exploitation as a normal, expected or unavoidable part of life.