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Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a type of sexual abuse in which children are sexually exploited for money, power or status.

Child sexual exploitation 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 may depend on their abuser and be too scared to tell anyone what's happening.

Signs of child sexual exploitation

  • Becoming especially secretive; stop seeing their usual friends; have really sharp, severe mood swings
  • Developing relationships with older men and/or women (although not all perpetrators are older)
  • Going missing from home and being reluctant to say where they’ve been or what they’ve been doing. Staying out all night
  • Receiving calls and messages from outside their normal circle of friends
  • New, expensive items that they couldn’t afford, such as mobile phones, iPods or jewellery – as well as ‘invisible’ or ‘virtual’ gifts such as phone credit and online gaming credits
  • Suddenly changing their taste in dress or music
  • Looking tired or unwell and sleeping at unusual hours
  • Marks or scars on their body which they try to hide
  • Regularly missing school
  • Displaying inappropriate sexualised behaviour

Child sexual exploitation online

When sexual exploitation happens online, young people may be persuaded or forced to:

  • send or post sexually explicit images of themselves
  • take part in sexual activities via a webcam or smartphone
  • have sexual conversations by text or online

Report it

If you know or suspect a child is in immediate danger, you should dial 999 straight away.

If you suspect a child may be at risk, or have any information relating to child sexual exploitation, we would prefer to speak to you:

You can also report suspected child sexual exploitation:

If you are in a profession such as a teacher or social worker, you may be exposed to certain situations which you feel the police should be aware of concerning vulnerable people.

If you believe a child or adult is vulnerable or being exploited, you can use this form to provide intelligence or information to the police.

Help and support

Visit the following organisation's websites for further help and support:

  • Barnardo's
    Children’s charity Barnardo’s, supports children and families affected by issues such as sexual exploitation and domestic abuse.

    The NSPCC provide a wide range of services for both children and adults, including national helplines for 24/7 help and advice.
  • Thinkuknow
    A website for children and young people. Gives honest and frank advice on topics including sex and relationships, and the internet.
  • CEOP safety centre
    If someone has acted inappropriately online towards you, a child or young person, or someone you know, find out what to do, and how to report it to police, by visiting the CEOP safety centre.
  • Young Victims Services
    This is a service for young people from 8-18 (up to 25 for those with additional needs) who have been victims of crime and/or antisocial behaviour.
  • The Blast Project
    The UK’s Leading Male ONLY Sexual Exploitation Service. The Sexual Exploitation for boys and young men is often unrecognised and undisclosed; however boys and young men are also vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
  • The Survivor Pathway
    The survivor pathway is a guide for anyone wanting to know more about specialist sexual violence services. Anyone who has experienced rape or any kind of sexual assault/abuse needs to be involved in decisions about what happens next, be informed enough to make their own choices and have control over their journey.

Related documents

  • PDF icon Working with the Police- The Role of Parents in Investigating Child Sexual Exploitation
    Last updated: 23 December 2016
  • PDF icon Child Sexual Exploitation - Leaflet for Parents
    Last updated: 24 April 2018