Child Sexual Exploitation

What is Child Sexual Exploitation?

Child Sexual Exploitation (or CSE as it is sometimes referred to) is a term that explains what happens when abusers encourage children and young people under 18 into sexually exploitative situations, contexts and relationships. These often involve the young person being given things such as food, accommodation, drugs, affection, gifts of money in return for performing sexual activities. Victims will often be groomed for a period of time before physical or sexual abuse takes place.

Child Sexual Exploitation is a form of child abuse, it is not a specific criminal offence but the term encompasses a range of different forms of serious criminal conduct and a number of individual offences. The sexual exploitation of a child or young person will almost certainly involve the commission of a crime, or have the potential for a crime to be committed.

CSE can occur through the use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition, for example the persuasion to post or send sexual images of themselves with no immediate payment or gain. In all cases those exploiting the child or young person have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and resources available to them.

Violence, coercion and intimidation are common in child sexual exploitation cases as many perpetrators target vulnerable young people. The vulnerability is often due to economic or physical circumstances that leave the young people with few choices, however, it is important to remember any child may be targeted so it is important to help them keep safe.

If you think a child may be at risk of Child Sexual Exploitation, ask yourself these questions …

  • Are they chatting online to people you have never met?
  • Are they secretive about where they have been and with whom?
  • Are they losing contact with family and friends of their own age, and associating with an older age group?
  • Has there been a change in their mood or behaviour?
  • Have you had concerns that they could be using drugs and/or alcohol?
  • Have they begun a relationship with someone older or someone that you are concerned about?
  • Have they been coming home with money, clothes, jewellery and mobile phones they can’t explain properly?
  • Have they started to truant from school?
  • Have they been missing from home?
  • Are they staying out overnight?

Below are some suggestions for how you can help to protect a child from Child Sexual Exploitation ...

  • Staying alert to changes in behaviour
  • Looking out for signs of physical abuse such as bruising or scars
  • Making sure you understand the risks associated with your child being online and put measures in place to minimise these risks.
  • Being cautious of older friends your child may have, or relationships with other young people where they appear to have control over your child.
  • Being aware of new, unexplained gifts or possessions
  • Monitoring any instances of staying out late or not returning home, noting times and dates, and any cars which pick them up or drop them off. Always contact the Police if your child does not return home.
  • Talking to your child about healthy relationships, and providing a supportive environment to encourage them to speak with you if they wish to.

If you are concerned that a child is being sexually exploited, then it is important that you contact someone who can help. This could be the Police, a teacher at the child’s school, or another professional. Further suggestions for help, advice and information can be found below…

For help or advice…

  • In an emergency, always ring 999
  • If you have concerns regarding a child in Devon, ring Children’s Services on MASH 0345 155 1071
  • Talk to a professional who knows the child, such as a Teacher or Social Worker.
  • You can also contact Childline on 0800 1111 to report your concerns.
  • If you would like to share information which might help protect a child you can also contact Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111, or the Police on 101.
  • You can contact PACE (parents against child exploitation on 0113 240 3040)


For more information about child sexual exploitation ...

  • Barnardos & PACE have made a short animated clipdesigned for parents and carers, to explain more about Child Sexual Exploitation.
  • PACE have set up and advice centre for parents to obtain information. Please click here for further information.
  • Barnardos have created a leaflet for parents and carers to help you better understand Child Sexual Exploitation, and some of the warning signs to look out for.
  • PACE (Parents against Child Sexual Exploitation) have a website which provides lots of information for Parents and Carers. They also run a mentoring scheme and phone line for support.
  • CEOP’s website provides advice about keeping children and young people safe online. Young people can also report online abuse here. This can include inappropriate contacts via social networks or chat rooms.