Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)

The term CSE stands for Child Sexual Exploitation.

CSE is a form of sexual abuse that involves the manipulation and/or coercion of young people under the age of 18 into sexual activity in exchange for things such as money, gifts, accommodation, affection or status. The manipulation or 'grooming' process involves befriending children, gaining their trust, and often feeding them drugs and alcohol, sometimes over a long period of time.

The abusive relationship between victim and perpetrator involves an imbalance of power which limits the victim's options. It is a form of abuse which is often misunderstood by victims and outsiders as consensual. Although it is true that the victim can be tricked into believing they are in a loving relationship, no child under the age of 18 can ever consent to being abused or exploited.

Abuse often involves violent and degrading sexual assaults and rape.

Online exploitation

Exploitation can also occur without physical contact when children are persuaded or forced to post indecent images of themselves online, participate in non-contact sexual activities via a webcam or smartphone, or engage in sexual conversations on a mobile phone.

Tactics used by perpetrators

Technology is widely used by perpetrators as a method of grooming and coercing victims, often through social networking sites and mobile devices. This form of abuse usually occurs in private, or in semi-public places such as parks, cinemas, cafes and hotels. Perpetrators increasingly organise parties where they give victims drugs and alcohol before sexually abusing them.

Who is at risk?

What makes a child more at risk?

The children at risk of sexual exploitation are some of the most vulnerable in our society. However, CSE is a crime that can affect any child, anytime, anywhere.

  • If they come from a chaotic or dysfunctional household
  • A lack of friends in the same age group
  • Confused about their sexuality
  • History of domestic abuse or neglect
  • Learning disabilities
  • Have come into contact with other exploited youngsters, e.g. at school
  • Have suffered a recent bereavement or loss
  • Are homeless or living in residential care, a hostel or bed and breakfast
  • Have low self-esteem or confidence
  • Area a young carer
  • Live in a gang neighbourhood.

Offenders come from many different social and ethnic backgrounds but they all have one thing in common. They are abusing young people and are using their status or position to exploit vulnerable victims.

Working with our partners we have created the Know and see website for young people which gives advice about identifying the signs of abuse.