One in nine teens subjected to sexual grooming, study finds

ONE in nine teenagers have been subjected to sexual grooming and three-quarters of those were under the age of 16 at the time, new research in the North has found.

The research involved 786 teenagers who completed the 2010 Young Life and Times (YLT) questionnaire, an annual survey of 16-year-olds undertaken in a joint initiative by Queen’s University and the University of Ulster.

It is the first time in the North that the area of sexual grooming and exploitation amongst teenagers has been included in the study.

According to the results, of the one in nine respondents who said an adult had tried to groom them, in almost half of those cases the perpetrator was at least seven years older than the respondent.

One in 15 respondents said they had been given drugs or alcohol and were then taken advantage of sexually. And two-thirds of respondents were under the age of 16 when this happened to them.

One in 20 respondents had been offered something in return for taking part in a sexual activity, and 62% of these respondents had not told anyone in authority that this had happened.

Over half were initially contacted on the street, through a friend or sibling or in a pub or club while 17% were initially contacted online.

Other findings from the wide-ranging report found that more than 50% of respondents felt community relations in the North were better now than five years ago, whilst only 39% felt relations between Catholics and Protestants would be better in five years. Eight out of 10 respondents believe that religion will always make a difference to how people in the North feel about each other.

Dr Dirk Schubotz, from the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work at Queen’s University, said the fact that a sizeable proportion of respondents had been affected by grooming or attempts to take advantage of them sexually, mostly before they had reached the age of consent, speaks volumes about the vulnerability of teens.

“On a general level, the survey reflects how the effects of the economic crisis are now felt by the great majority of young people,” he said.

“The data suggest the majority of young people recognise positive changes in Northern Ireland society. However, only about one in 10 respondents are satisfied with the Northern Ireland government.”

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