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Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a type of sexual abuse whereby children in exploitative situations and relationships receive something such as gifts, money or affection as a result of performing sexual activities or others performing sexual activities on them.

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

Some children and young people are trafficked into or within the UK for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Sexual exploitation can also happen to young people in gangs.

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

It can involve violent, humiliating and degrading sexual assaults, including oral and anal rape. In some cases, young people are persuaded or forced into exchanging sexual activity for money, drugs, gifts, affection or status. Child sexual exploitation doesn't always involve physical contact and can happen online.

It is very important to recognise  that child sexual exploitation does not only happen to females.

Child Sexual Abuse 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.

Abusers may threaten to send images, video or copies of conversations to the young person's friends and family unless they take part in other sexual activity.

Images or videos may continue to be shared long after the sexual abuse has stopped.

Child Sexual Exploitation in Gangs

Sexual exploitation is used in gangs to:

  • exert power and control over members
  • initiate young people into the gang
  • exchange sexual activity for status or protection
  • entrap rival gang members by exploiting girls and young women
  • inflict sexual assault as a weapon in conflict.

Girls and young women are frequently forced into sexual activity by gang members. Research has identified  girls considered to be engaging in casual sex were seen as forfeiting their right to refuse sex.

Investigations have also shown that until recently the majority of sexual exploitation within gangs is committed by teenage boys and men in their twenties.

If you are concerned that a child may be being sexually exploited, please report it immediately.  You can call the NSPCC on their free helpline 0808 800 5000 or email them on