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Identification and responses by nurses to sexual exploitation of young people

04 April 2024
Volume 33 · Issue 7



Nurses are uniquely positioned to identify and respond to the sexual exploitation of young people. They treat sexually transmitted infections, unplanned pregnancies, and mental health issues, often collaborating with social services and law enforcement to safeguard young people.


This narrative review explores the pivotal role of nurses in identifying and responding to sexual exploitation among young people.


Empirical evidence from 1997 to 2021 was examined through a comprehensive search of databases such as CINAHL-EBSCO, ASSIA, PubMed (including Medline), and manual screening of abstracts. The PRISMA guideline was applied. Thematic analysis of 12 selected studies revealed three overarching themes.


The themes identified were the influence of technology on the sexual exploitation of young people, identification and response to sexual exploitation in both clinical and non-clinical settings, and organisational support.


These findings shed light on sexual exploitation and underscore the significance of a person-centred approach to nursing care that addresses the health and social impacts of sexual exploitation. It emphasises the importance of interagency collaboration and appropriate clinical interventions to effectively support young people at risk. Increased professional development, support, and supervision for nurses are relevant to identifying, responding to, and preventing the sexual exploitation of young people.

The historical landscape of child and youth sexual exploitation provides a crucial context for understanding current challenges and future policymaking and service provision opportunities. The independent inquiry into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham (Jay, 2018) unveiled a disturbing reality, where local political and other leadership displayed a dismissive stance towards sexual exploitation, neglecting pertinent reports and downplaying its severity. This negligence created an environment of vulnerability for children and young people (Anonymous/Community Practitioner, 2014; Bradbury-Jones et al, 2019). Comprehensive reviews by Williamson et al (2020), Brady et al (2022), and Mythen and Weston (2023), complemented by the UK's Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse (IICSA) (2022), have reaffirmed the persisting issue of sexual exploitation. These studies further show that children and young people are still susceptible to sexual exploitation, imposing substantial burdens on service providers and policymakers.

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