Sexual Exploitation

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a type of sexual abuse.

Children and young people in exploitative situations and relationships receive something such as gifts, food, money, protection, or affection in receipt  for performing sexual acts on others, or others performing sexual acts on them.

Who does it affect?

CSE affects both boys and girls from any background.

Children or young people may be tricked into believing they're in a loving, consensual relationship. They may also be groomed and exploited online or even be invited to parties and given drugs and alcohol.

Child sexual exploitation is a hidden crime. Young people often trust their abuser and don't understand or see that they are being abused. They may be depending on their abuser or be too scared to tell anyone what's happening.

Many children and young people are too frightened to come forward, or don't realise they are being abused. They may suffer in silence for years without anyone to talk to about what they’re going through.

It can also involve violent, humiliating and degrading sexual assaults, including rape. 


Some children and young people are trafficked into or within the UK (city to city, town to town, even street to street) for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Sexual exploitation can also happen to young people in gangs.

Child sexual exploitation doesn't always involve physical contact and can happen online.

Risk factors

The following risk factors might increase the likelihood of a young person being sexually exploited:

  • Going missing for periods of time or regularly returning home late.
  • Regularly missing school or not taking part in education.
  • Appearing with unexplained gifts or possessions.
  • Associating with other young people involved in exploitation.
  • Being in a controlling relationship
  • Suffering from sexually transmitted infections.
  • Uncharacteristic and significant mood swings or changes in emotional well being.
  • Drug and alcohol misuse.
  • Spending time in CSE hotspots.
  • Being secretive.
  • Changes in behaviour.
  • Self-harming.
  • Suspected pregnancies.
  • Displaying inappropriate sexualised behaviour.
  • Use of mobile phone and internet that causes concern.
  • Involved with or linked to gang activity

Further guidance: 

NSPCC guidance

Barnados guidance

Child Sexual Exploitation