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Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)

Date posted:
12th November 2021

What is it?

CSE is a type of sexual abuse. When a child or young person is exploited, they’re given things, like gifts, drugs, money, status and affection, in exchange for performing sexual activities…they must trust their abuser and not understand they are being abused.

How it impacts:

CSE is a crime with devastating and long-lasting consequences, ranging from physical, sexual and mental health difficulties for the victim and their family.

What to look for:

CSE can be difficult to spot and sometimes mistake for ‘normal’ teenage behaviour. Knowing the signs can help protect children and help them when they have no one else to turn to.

Children rarely self-report CSE so it is important that practitioners are aware of the potential indicator risks, including:

  • Acquisition of money, clothes, mobile phones etc without plausible explanation
  • Gang association and / or isolation from peers / social networks
  • Exclusion or unexplained absence from school
  • Leaving home without explanation and persistently going missing
  • Excessive receipt of texts / phone calls
  • Returning home under the influence of drugs / alcohol
  • Inappropriate sexualised behaviour
  • Suspicion of sexual assault
  • Relationships with controlling or significantly older individuals
  • Frequenting known areas / locations of interest to the police
  • Changes in emotional wellbeing

CSE takes many different forms. The following illustrative examples, although very different in nature and potentially involving different sexual or other offences, could all fall under the definition of CSE:

  • A 44 year female posing as a 17 year old female online and persuading a 12 year old male to send her a sexual image, and then threatening to tell his parents if he doesn’t continue to send more explicit images;
  • A 14 year old female having sex with a 16 year old gang member and his two friends in return for the protection of the gang;
  • A 13 year old female offering and giving an adult male taxi driver sexual intercourse in return for a taxi fare home;
  • A 21 year old male persuading his 17 year old ‘girlfriend’ to have sex with his friends to pay off a drug debt;
  • A mother letting other adults abuse her 8 year old child in return for money;
  • A group of men bringing two 17 year old females to a hotel in another town and charging others to have sex with them
  • Three 15 year old females being taken to a house party and given ‘free’ alcohol and drugs, then made to have sex with six adult males to pay for this

Useful links:

Child sexual exploitation: definition and guide for practitioners - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)

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