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Child sexual exploitation

What is child sexual exploitation (CSE)?

CSE is a form of sexual abuse. It’s where someone is taking advantage of a child sexually for their own benefit.

A child or young person is often groomed, manipulated or forced into taking part in a sexual act. They may believe this is part of a consensual relationship. It might be in return for attention, affection, money, drugs, alcohol or somewhere to stay. 

The child or young person may think that their abuser is their friend, boyfriend or girlfriend. But the abuser will put them into dangerous situations and force them to do things they don’t want to do. The abuser may physically or verbally threaten them, or be violent towards them. They are controlling and manipulative. They will try to isolate the child or young person from friends and family. 

People who aim to groom children or young people online might use a fake identity. They might pretend to have similar interests as them, to gain their trust.

What is grooming?

People who try to groom children and young people want to get information about them, for example: 

  • their age 
  • where they live 
  • who else might use the computer that they use
  • who else has access to their mobile phone 

Once the groomer has got lots of information, they often move conversations towards sexual experiences and interests. They might ask the child or young person to send sexual photographs or videos of themselves. 

Some people who seek to groom might try to blackmail them if the child or young person refuses to do what they tell them. They may threaten to share pictures or videos of the child or young person with their friends and family.

Online grooming can take place via chat rooms, instant messaging (IM), and social networking sites. This can involve a child or young person being asked to: 

  • chat about sex online
  • do sexual things on a webcam
  • share naked or sexual pictures of themselves
  • look at pictures or videos of others doing sexual things 
  • online pornography
  • watch the person they are speaking with do sexual things, such as exposing themselves
  • meet up in real life

Who is at risk?

Online grooming can happen to both boys and girls, of any age, and whatever their sexuality. It doesn't no matter where they’re from or what their cultural background is.

Know the signs 

Even something that seems like normal teenage behaviour could be a sign that a child is being exploited. The signs can include: 

  • increasing or secretive phone or device use
  • excessive amount of time online and being secretive about it
  • a much older ‘boyfriend’ or ‘friend’ or lots of new friends
  • becoming secretive, argumentative, aggressive, disruptive, quiet, withdrawn
  • having unexplained gifts or new clothes, jewellery, mobile phones
  • having money or access to things such as alcohol
  • going missing from home or school
  • staying out late or all night

How to get support

You can contact the Police and other organisations for help or you can contact us.

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