The Coalition for the Removal of Pimping (Crop) have examined the scale of the problem and outlined what parents can do if they are concerned about their child.
Coalition for the Removal of Pimping helpline: 0113 240 3040
It is hard to be precise as to the scale of the problem, as there are no official statistics on how many children are victims of child sexual exploitation in the UK.
Crop has supported well over 250 families in the last five years; all the anecdotal evidence points to it being a substantial problem in the UK.
Comments from police such as "we are working with 40 young women but we know it is just the tip of the iceberg" are common.
Part of the problem is that many agencies do not know or recognise the signs of sexual exploitation and this can lead to many children falling through the net.
The first thing for parents to realise is that the child is the victim of a crime; she has been groomed by highly experienced people who know all the finer points of emotional manipulation.
The child may not appear to be a victim, but that is what she is.
Crop advises parents to keep reminding their child that they love them and that they are there for them. This is a battle against the exploiters, whose main aim at this initial stage is to isolate the girl from her parents so that they can exert more control.
The exploitation is perpetrated mainly by men, although some women are involved; pimps operate individually but often in sophisticated criminal networks.
It is important to alert social services and the police to the fact that the child is being, or maybe being exploited. CROP can support parents through this process. If you keep a diary of everything that happens with your child: the names of exploiters, car registration numbers it can help build up a case.
It is also advisable to write down names and dates of conversations you have with social services and the police.
Unfortunately, some services you come into contact with may be judgemental, and not fully understand child sexual exploitation.
Crop offers support such as listening to, and understanding parents and responding non-judgementally. There is also practical help, being an advocate alongside them when dealing with other agencies, such as social services and the police or lobbying their MP.
When a parent discovers their child is being sexually exploited it is an enormous shock; the parent is often completely unprepared, and feels confused, angry, alone and guilty.
Crop offers ongoing support as they steer their way through the very painful process of trying to protect their child and provide a 'normal' home for other siblings.
Teenage Sex For Sale: Panorama BBC One 10.35pm on Thursday 27 March 2008.
If you have been affected by the issues raised, you can call the Coalition for the Removal of Pimping helpline on 0113 240 3040.