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Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)

postcard 2The definition used by the government in the DCSF Guidance 2009; Safeguarding children and young people from sexual exploitation: supplementary guidance to working together to safeguard children, defines child sexual exploitation as follows:

Child sexual exploitation can occur through the use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition; for example being persuaded to post sexual images on the internet/mobile phones without immediate payment or gain. In all cases those exploiting the child/young person have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and/or economic or other resources. Violence, coercion and intimidation are common, involvement in exploitative relationships being characterised in the main by the child’s or young person’s limited availability of choice, resulting from their social/economic and/or emotional vulnerability.

Child sexual exploitation tends to be a hidden activity and much more likely to take place in private residences than visibly, on the streets. Barnardo’s has identified three different models of activity; they are not exhaustive, but show a spectrum of exploitation, as follows:

1. Inappropriate relationships usually involving one perpetrator who has inappropriate power or control over a young person (physical, emotional or financial). One indicator may be a significant age gap. The young person may believe they are in a loving relationship.

2. “Boyfriend” model of exploitation and peer exploitation. The perpetrator befriends and grooms a young person into a ‘relationship’ and then coerces or forces them to have sex with friends or associates. Barnardo’s have reported a rise in peer exploitation where young people are forced or coerced into sexual activity by peers and associates. Sometimes this can be associated with gang activity but not always.

3. Organised/networked sexual exploitation or trafficking Young people (often connected) are passed through networks, possibly over geographical distances, between towns and cities where they may be forced/coerced into sexual activity with multiple men. Often this occurs at ‘sex parties’, and young people who are involved may be used as agents to recruit others into the network. Some of this activity is described as serious organised crime and can involve the organised ‘buying and selling’ of young people by perpetrators.

If you are concerned a child or young person is at risk of or experiencing sexual abuse through exploitation, please contact the West Berkshire Contact Advise Assessment Service (CAAS) 01635 503090


CSE Screening Tool

The Indicator Tool aims to help practitioners focus on the specific CSE indicators and determine whether further investigations are needed.

Access the tool here.


National Key facts about Child Sexual Exploitation

  • Sexual exploitation often starts around the age of 10 years old. Girls are usually targeted from age10 and boys from age 8.
  • It affects both girls and boys and can happen in all communities.
  • Any child or young person can be targeted.
  • Children looked after by a local authority, young people leaving care, and children with disabilities can be particularly vulnerable.
  • Victims of CSE may also be trafficked (locally, nationally and internationally).
  • Over 70% of adults involved in prostitution were sexually exploited as children or teenagers.
  • Sexual violence or abuse against children represents a major public health and social welfare problem within UK society, affecting 16% of children under 16. That is approximately 2 million children.


Signs that might alert you to the possibility that a child is being sexually exploited

  • Missing from home or care
  • Physical injuries
  • Drug or alcohol misuse
  • Involvement in offending
  • Retreated sexually-transmitted infections, pregnancy and terminations
  • Absent from school
  • Change in physical appearance
  • Evidence of sexual bullying and/or vulnerability through the internet and/or social; networking sites
  • Estranged from their family
  • Receipt of gifts from unknown sources
  • Recruiting others into exploitative situations
  • Poor mental health
  • Self-harm
  • Thoughts of or attempts at suicide
  • Multiple mobile phones or SIM cards


Free e-course for parents, carers and others interested in learning more about child sexual exploitation

Pace (Parents against child sexual exploitation) & Virtual College’s Safeguarding Children e-Academy have teamed up to create a free interactive e-course that equips parents, carers and others interested in learning more about child sexual exploitation with the knowledge and information to help safeguard children from this abuse.

This resource has been developed in response to a recent YouGov survey where teachers, police and social workers identified that reaching and engaging parents is key to tackling CSE.

Learners will be able to recognise the signs of CSE, understand the impact of this abuse and know what to do if they suspect a child might be at risk. 


Useful resources

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