I want our legal system to remember that young victims of sexual exploitation are children. It's the only way that children like me will get justice
  • Petitioned Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales

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Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales

I want our legal system to remember that young victims of sexual exploitation are children. It's the only way that children like me will get justice

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"Does how old I look make a difference to how you think about me?

"Do you make assumptions about me because of how I seem?

"We all do I guess, but when these judgments are made in a courtroom they can have really negative consequences.

"My name is Lucy. I'm not real - I can't be. Barnardo's has a responsibility to protect the identity of the children that they've created me to represent. And while I'm not real myself, my story tells of what has really happened to children across England and Wales.

"I'm 13, but I could be any age, perhaps 11, maybe 16.

"I went to court because I had a chance to see the man who sexually exploited me punished for what he'd done.

"But in the courtroom I was made to feel that the abuse I experienced was my fault - even when he had been found guilty!

"They said that because I have large breasts I look mature for my age and men could easily think I was old enough to have sex.

"They also said that I seduced him! They said I agreed to it all.

"But I only had sex with him because he tricked me into it.

"He promised to care for me and I wanted him to because no-one has really cared for me before. I trusted him. 

"He's older than me and you're supposed to be able to trust grown-ups, aren't you? But he abused my trust and he really damaged me.

"Why couldn't the people in court have seen me as a child? If they had, they would know that I could never truly agree to being in this position.

"That would be like me agreeing to be abused".


We've a really important chance to improve how sexually exploited children are treated when they go to court.

Legal guidelines currently exist that risk children being treated in the way that Lucy’s story describes even when their abuser is found guilty. But fortunately these are currently being reviewed.

This means we have an opportunity to change them. We want it to make sure that these guidelines recommend that the justice system in child sexual exploitation cases treats the victims as children.

If they do this, they have a means to override any other perceptions they may have about the young person in their courtroom.  It means we can better protect this young person from further abuse, giving them to chance to recover and improve their life.

That's why it's vital you sign this petition today.


With thanks from service users at Barnardo's child sexual exploitation services and the Barnardo's Campaigns Team.

For more information about this campaign or the issues raised in it please email campaigns@barnardos.org.uk or phone 020 8550 8822

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Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales
I want to make sure that sexually exploited children, whatever their age are never treated as if the abuse is their fault. That's why I want our legal system to remember that, in child sexual exploitation cases, the victim is a child.

[Your name]

Recent signatures


    1. Reached 7,000 signatures
    2. Barnardo’s Remember they are children campaign now important than ever!

      Today, the Director of Public Prosecutions announced new guidelines that could encourage more young victims to come forward and trust in our legal system.

      This makes it more important than ever that our legal system treats these young victims of abuse as children, no matter how mature they look or how they behave. Without this, we will still leave children at risk of being made to feel that they are to blame for the sexual exploitation they have suffered.

    3. Reached 6,000 signatures


    Reasons for signing

      • 11 months ago

      A girl could have large breasts, a girl could be wearing a lot of make up, she could be dressed up, she could be wearing no clothes at all. But regardless of what she looks like or what she is wearing that does not give a man permission to force himself onto her, rape is rape, the size or appearance of a girl does not change the fact that she DID NOT WANT IT. Looks do not mean that she was 'asking' for it, and of all people, children are not to blame.

    • gomah said LUXOR, EGYPT
      • about 1 year ago

      gomah said

      • about 1 year ago

      we need to protect our children from abuse and predatory adults

      • about 1 year ago

      The victim of any crime should not be made to feel they are responsible for something beyond their control!

      • about 1 year ago

      Any victim of sexual abuse is a victim and should be treated as such.


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