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Child Sexual Exploitation

Child Sexual Exploitation

What is Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)?

CSE is a type of child abuse. It happens when a young person is encouraged, or forced, to take part in sexual activity in exchange for something.

  • The reward might be presents, money, alcohol or simply, emotional attention.
  • It can happen to any child or young person.
  • It might seem like a normal friendship or relationship to begin with.
  • It can happen online or offline, and often the young person isn't aware of it.

Children or young people may be tricked into believing they're in a loving, consensual relationship. They might be invited to parties and given drugs and alcohol. They may also be groomed and exploited online.

Who does is happen to?

  • Any young person, aged 17 and under, can be a victim of child sexual exploitation.
  • It can, and does, happen to boys as well as girls.
  • It can happen to young people of all races and backgrounds.
  • Young people experiencing problems at home who go missing or are in care can be vulnerable and particularly at risk,  but child sexual exploitation can also happen to those from a loving, supportive home.
  • No matter who is affected by CSE, it is never, ever their fault – even if they agreed to the sexual activity because they felt they 'should'. A child may agree to sexual activity because they felt they had no other choice and/or do not fully understand consent.

Who does it?

People who commit this crime can be male or female and they normally have an 'edge' over the young person they target. They might be older, wealthier, or physically stronger than them. They may have a status that makes them seem 'cool' to others, and might give support and attention that no one else provides. They might listen, offer advice, or give compliments.

They are often using the internet to protect their identity, and trafficking children around the country to avoid detection.

There's no 'standard' profile of an exploiter, and CSE is hard to spot – even for the young person affected. They may be groomed over time and so not be aware that they are a victim, and even if they are, they may think it's their fault.

How does it happen?

At first, a young person may like, respect, or event think they are falling in love with the person exploiting them. This is because they are 'groomed' over time. This process involves making them feel 'special', so they become attached. But later, the behaviour of the abuser starts to change, often slowly. By this point, the young person is likely to feel trapped, isolated and scared. They may find it difficult to acknowledge that they are no longer comfortable in the relationship.

People who commit child sexual exploitation can be very manipulative. They might buy presents or give emotional attention that makes a young person feel on top of the world, or as if they are falling in love. They may single out their victims and target them face-to-face, or approach them online.

Sometimes the abuser will strengthen their control over the young person by driving them away from those who would usually look after them, whether that's family, friends or carers.

What are the signs?

Sexual exploitation affects thousands of children and young people every year. By knowing the tell-tale signs, we can all play an important role in reducing that number.

This includes:

  • Going missing for periods of time or regularly returning home late
  • Regularly missing school or not taking part in education
  • Appearing with unexplained gifts or new possessions
  • Associating with other young people involved in exploitation
  • Having older boyfriends or girlfriends
  • Being diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections
  • Mood swings or changes in emotional wellbeing
  • Drug and/or alcohol misuse
  • Displaying inappropriate sexual behaviour.



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