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Child Sexual Exploitation

Child sexual exploitation

We are committed to bringing those responsible to justice, providing support for victims, and raising awareness of it to help prevent future cases.

We have a dedicated team that gathers intelligence and investigates cases where CSE is suspected, as well as co-ordinating the work by partner agencies to tackle CSE across the county.

As part of the work we are doing to raise awareness of this important issue, we’re encouraging everyone to take a moment to learn how to spot the signs of CSE taking place.

If you’re worried that you or your friends might be involved in CSE, there are plenty of organisations who can provide help and support. Read our advice for young people.


We also have advice on our website for parents and carers who have concerns about CSE or who want to know more.


What is CSE?

CSE is a type of child abuse in which children are sexually exploited for money, power or status.


It can affect any child or young person – regardless of their background, culture, gender, age, or ethnicity.


The official definition of CSE is:


“Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. It occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator.


“The victim may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.”      


Although CSE is child abuse, it is not an offence in its own right. The offences that usually form part of a CSE case include sexual offences, kidnap, torture, assault, and trafficking.


Types of CSE

There is more than one type of CSE and there is no ‘typical’ case. Here are the main types:

  • Older Boyfriend/Girlfriend – this is typically where a single offender befriends a young person and manipulates them into thinking that they are in a caring relationship in order to sexually exploit them.  The young person believes they are in a loving and consensual relationship, however there is an imbalance in power e.g. age, intellect, economic resources
  • Peer on Peer – this can be where young people are tricked, manipulated or forced into sexual activity by people of a similar age. An example of this could be the sharing of indecent images.
  • Familial – where a young person is groomed and exploited by a member of their own family.
  • Online – Grooming and sexual exploitation take place completely online with the young person and the offender never meeting.  The offender may trick (by pretending to be somebody of the same/similar age) or blackmail the young person into providing sexually explicit images or videos that they then use for their own sexual gratification or distribute to others.
  • Abuse of authority – So somebody in a position of authority over the young person uses that position to trick, manipulate, threaten or blackmail them in order to sexually exploit them.
  • Groups – where a group of people working together to identify, groom and sexually exploit young people – often trafficking them around different geographical locations. Young people are forced to have sex with multiple men and they can be used to recruit others into the network.
  • Gangs - Sexual exploitation can also be used as a form of punishment or as an initiation into a street gang.  Assaults may be filmed and used to blackmail and control gang members. 


How does it happen?

The offenders, who sometimes work in groups, are organised and deliberate in their actions and use sophisticated tactics. 


Grooming can take place in many forms – both online using social media, via mobile phones, or in person.


Often the grooming starts with friendship or a relationship.  The victim may be misguided in to thinking the adult is their boyfriend / girlfriend.  The offender may supply gifts such clothes, money, mobiles phones or other presents.  They may also supply drugs and alcohol. Sometimes the victims are given lifts and transported around.


Over time, the offender will usually encourage the child to distance themselves from their usual family and friends.


Soon in to the friendship / relationship, sexual assault or rape may occur.  The victim may feel they have to have sex because they are in a ‘relationship’ or because they feel threatened or frightened.  Sex may involve one person or they may be forced to have sex with several adults or be passed around the ‘group’.


The child may not always realise they are being groomed and may even believe they are a willing participant, when they are anything but


Find out more about how to spot the signs that CSE is taking place.


Further information

Read our real life stories from CSE survivors, and dispel some of the common myths around CSE here


There are a number of organisations you can contact for help and support.