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Child sexual exploitation (CSE) & online grooming

What is child sexual exploitation (CSE)?

Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse.

Sexual abuse may involve physical contact, including:

  • assault by penetration (for example, rape or oral sex) or
  • non-penetrative acts such as masturbation, kissing, rubbing and touching outside clothing.

It may include non-contact activities, such as:

  • involving children in the production of sexual images,
  • forcing children to look at sexual images or watch sexual activities
  • encouraging children to behave in sexually inappropriate ways
  • grooming a child in preparation for abuse (including via the internet).

CSE can affect any child or young person (male or female) under the age of 18 years, including 16 and 17 year olds who can legally consent to have sex.

Some children and young people are trafficked into or within the UK for sexual exploitation. Sexual exploitation can also happen to young people in gangs.

Sexual exploitation affects thousands of children and young people every year. We can all play an important role in reducing that number, helping to cut children free from this abuse.

What are the signs?

Children and young people that are the victims of sexual exploitation often do not recognise that they are being exploited. But there are some tell-tale signs that a child may be being groomed for sexual exploitation. These include:

  • Going missing for periods of time or regularly returning home late
  • Regularly missing school or not taking part in education
  • Increased use of mobile phone and/or internet activity
  • Increased secretiveness around behaviours
  • Appearing with unexplained gifts or new possessions
  • Associating with other young people involved in exploitation
  • Having older boyfriends or girlfriends
  • Suffering from sexually transmitted infections
  • Mood swings or changes in emotional wellbeing
  • Drug and alcohol misuse
  • Displaying inappropriate sexualised behaviour.

Report it

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) can happen to anyone under the age of 18 and it is often a hidden crime. Young people may trust their abuser and don't understand that they are being abused. Or they may depend on their abuser and be too scared to tell anyone what's happening.

If you suspect a child is at risk, or have any information relating to child sexual exploitation, we would prefer to speak to you on the phone. Please call us on 101.

Dial 999 straight away if you know or suspect a child is in immediate danger.

You can also visit in person at a police station or report online.

More help and support

Barnardo’s ‘Spot the Signs Campaign’

CEOP ‘Think U Know’

Pace – Parents against child sexual exploitation

Child Exploitation & Online Protection (CEOP)

08 Aug 19 3:37 PM

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