Child Sexual Exploitation
Tackling child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a priority for
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
“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
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
- 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
- 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
- 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
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
The child may not always realise they are being groomed and may
even believe they are a willing participant, when they are anything
Find out more about how to spot the signs that CSE is taking place.
Read our real life
stories from CSE survivors, and dispel some of the common myths around CSE
There are a number of organisations you can contact for