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Advice for parents and carers

Child Sexual Exploitation

What is it?

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is a type of child sexual abuse where children receive something such as gifts, money or affection before being forced into performing or taking part in sexual acts. CSE occurs through the planned, systematic identification, targeting, manipulation and physical, psychological and sexual abuse of children and young people.



All children and young people can be at risk of CSE (not just girls!) however those with low self- esteem, are susceptible to peer pressure, experimenting with alcohol/substance use, who may reject authority and/or stay/go out late without support networks knowing where they are can be more vulnerable. Many of these behaviours can be actively encouraged directly/indirectly or subtly by the offender prior to abuse and exploitation occurring.


Boys and girls are victims of CSE, however boys are less likely to disclose if they have been sexually exploited. There are many reasons why children and young people may not disclose (CSE) such as fear of the consequences, thinking they may be blamed, feelings of shame/guilt or fear of the legal process. However, boys may have other additional barriers preventing them from disclosing such as the fear of being seen as a grass, unable to look after themselves, accused as the perpetrator, or as homosexual (if they are heterosexual and abused by an adult male).

It is important to remember that many of the warning signs of CSE are the same regardless of the gender of the victim.

Young people are groomed by adults or other young people. The offender will try to build an emotional connection from the young person towards them, and may also develop a 'fake' relationship with them (it may seem genuine to the young person but is 'fake' due to the intentions of the offender to ultimately abuse/exploit the young person). Young people will be recruited and manipulated into feeling they are not being abused, and introduced to a lifestyle they may feel/be persuaded is normal. Once they are being exploited young people feel they cannot easily change their situation due to the controlling behaviour exerted on them by the offender, and the lack of power they have over the offender/abuser.

Young people can experience grooming online (including through gaming), at parties, from/in gangs, from older adults or from their peers. Offenders will target and prey on the vulnerabilities of young people.

  • Receiving unexplained/unaccountable for gifts or money
  • Change of appearance/behaviour (Positive or Negative)
  • Increased/secretive use of mobile phone/internet (including additional mobile phones)
  • New ‘friends’, some of whom may be significantly older
  • Being asked to send explicit images online/have shared explicit images
  • Missing from home or care (the more regular the greater the risk)
  • Loss of or distancing from friends and family support
  • Absence from school
  • Physical injuries
  • Drug or alcohol misuse
  • Involvement in offending
  • Repeat sexually-transmitted infections, pregnancy and terminations
  • Self-harm and/or thoughts of or attempts at suicide

If you are worried about a child or young person, you must do something – but it may not be easy to find out what is going on from them. Your child or young person may have been told not to talk about what they are doing or threatened with violence if they do. Alternatively, they may believe they are in an exciting relationship, which they don’t want to end. Try to find a time to talk to them calmly about how they feel. Your child/young person may open up and admit they are unhappy about a part of their life. They may even admit they need help. However, if they won’t talk to you do not let the matter drop. Keep monitoring the situation, be alert to signs, record evidence of your concerns and ask questions. Is there someone else that you can trust that you could talk to about your concerns, or who may talk to your child/young person if they trust them too, a grandparent, aunt/uncle, family friend, someone from their school or local community? Alternatively, you can check with their friends, they will often know if there has been a recent change in your child/young person, or check-in with their friend’s parents?

If you are concerned about a child/young person please call the Single Point of Access (SPA) on 01628 683150


If you think a young person is in immediate danger call 999


If you have concerns that somewhere is being used to groom/engage in CSE call 101



Children's Society