Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a type of sexual abuse where children and young people are manipulated or forced to perform sexual activities (e.g. penetrative sex, sexual touching, masturbation, or sending sexual images) often in exchange for things like money, drugs, gifts, affection, food, and accommodation.

Anyone can be a perpetrator of CSE, no matter their age, ethnicity or gender, and children and young people are often tricked into believing that they are in a loving relationship, often known as grooming.

Grooming involves building a relationship, trust, and emotional connection with the child or young person so that they can be taken advantage of and exploited. The forms of relationship a groomer can build includes romantic relationships, mentorships, and relationships can be built via social media, messaging apps, on games and apps, or in person. A groomer will often give the child or young person a lot of attention, gifts, and take them on trips/outings or holidays.

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) can occur through the use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition; for example being persuaded to post sexual images on the Internet or by message without immediate payment or gain. An abuser can control the child or young person using violence or blackmail before moving onto sexual abuse, and this can happen within a short time period.

Both girls and boys are at risk of sexual exploitation, and children are most vulnerable between the ages of 13 and 15, though children can be targeted at a younger age. Children and young people often find it very hard to understand or accept that they are being abused through sexual exploitation, and this increases their risk of being exposed to violent assault and life threatening events by those who abuse them.

Children and young people can be trafficked into or within the UK to be sexually exploited. Learn more about child trafficking and modern slavery here.

Effects of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)

Child sexual exploitation can have long-term effects on a child or young person, including:

  • Mental health problems
  • Pregnancy at a young age
  • Struggle with trust, fearful of forming new relationships
  • Isolation from family and friends
  • Low attainment and truancy or dropping out of education
  • Unemployment
  • Self-harm and suicide attempts
  • Alcohol and drug abuse
  • Criminal behaviour
  • Homelessness

See the NSPCC’s information and guidance on Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) here.

Find out how to spot the signs of child sexual exploitation (CSE) here.

Operation Rattle

Locally, Sussex Police, Children’s Services, and partners across the City are working to safeguard young people from all forms of exploitation and build on existing work around CSE.

Professionals, parents and children themselves may hold vital information around those individuals who are dealing drugs and those children who are being exploited in some way. If this information can be gathered, channelled and properly assessed then we can improve the wellbeing of all children in our city. You can help in passing relevant information to agencies who are charged with safeguarding our children, and help us focus on the most vulnerable and target those causing the most harm

If you have any concerns that a child or young person is being sexually exploited call Sussex Police on 101 and quote Operation Kite.

Further information & advice is available in the Multi Agency CSE Resource Pack.

Links and Resources

  • The WISE Project is a service for 13-25 year olds who are experiencing sexual exploitation or are at risk of experiencing it. The project is also a point of call for advice and guidance for those working with young people who have suffered from sexual exploitation.
  • PACE (Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation) provide free online training called Keep Them Safe. The course is aimed at parents, but safeguarding professionals will also find this e-learning a valuable source of introductory information on what child sexual exploitation is, the impacts of this abuse on families and how to take action in reporting or stopping sexual exploitation. They also have a guide for parents whose children are being exploited called Keeping it Together.
  • Wud U?, developed by Barnardos, is an educational tool for teachers & care professionals who interact with young people that might be at risk of sexual exploitation. The app aims to educate young people about behaviour that could put them at risk of being sexually exploited, through illustrated, interactive stories, and can be downloaded for free from the Windows Store, Google Play & the App store.

Click here for the Pan Sussex Procedure on Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE).

If you are concerned about a child, please contact Front Door For Families on 01273 290400, FrontDoorForFamilies@brighton-hove.gov.uk, or use their Online Referral Form.

If a child is in immediate danger,
you should contact the
police by calling 999.