Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE): Information for Young People

Child Sexual Exploitation is a form of sexual abuse that involves young people under the age of 18 being pressured or tricked into sexual activity. This abuse involves exploiting you through power and being manipulated or forced into taking part in sexual activities, often in exchange for attention, affection, money, drugs, alcohol or gifts.

You might believe that they are in a loving and consensual relationship with the individual, and may trust them, so you might not feel you are being abused. This is known as grooming.

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Often older men or women may:

  • show you a lot of interest and affection and make you feel special

  • take you and your friends back to their houses, or to parties

  • offer you drugs, alcohol and/or a place to chill out

  • buy you presents like clothes, a mobile phone, or money to buy alcohol and cigarettes

Once they’ve gained your trust and affection, things change

  • They will ask for sexual favours for themselves or other people, in return for alcohol, drugs, presents, money – all the things they started giving for free

  • They stop being nice and can become threatening or violent

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Some of the visible signs you or someone you know is in trouble could include:

  • Having an older boyfriend / girlfriend

  • Hanging out with new older friends

  • Staying out late or going missing from home and school for periods of time

  • Being bought nice presents or given food, money, drink, cigarettes or drugs

  • Being secretive about what they’re doing and who they’re with

  • Spending increasing amounts of time talking secretly with new ‘friends’ online

  • Receiving calls/texts from strangers asking to meet up

  • Misusing drugs or alcohol

  • Accepting lifts from people you don’t know

  • A sudden change in behaviour – becoming aggressive and disruptive, or quiet and withdrawn

Sound like anyone you know? If you’re worried about a friend, talk to them, make them feel safe and not embarrassed. If they don’t want to talk to you, talk to someone you trust, preferably an adult.

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When you think of the term “abuse” you may visualise someone being physically or verbally violent, although this can definitely play a part in child sexual exploitation, the abuse can often be much less obvious.

The abuser (who you might think of as a friend, partner or family member) may control and manipulate you without you realising by trying to isolate you from your friends and family. They may regularly say negative things about others in your life in order to break up your relationships/friendships, making you more dependent on them.

Remember: If the abuser is giving you gifts (including affection), you may think that performing the sexual favours that they ask is a fair exchange, it isn’t!

To report sexual exploitation:

  • Call 999 if the child is at immediate risk
  • Call 101 if you think a crime has been committed
  • Call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online.