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Child sexual exploitation

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is the abuse of children and young people up to the age of 18, particularly where the young person is being manipulated, coerced or forced into engaging in sexual activity.

As a form of manipulation and control, the young person may receive gifts, affection, drugs, alcohol or attention from their abuser. Commonly, the young person may believe they are in a loving, consensual relationship, when in fact they are being exploited.

CSE can occur in different ways and in different situations. Many young people are often "groomed" by their abuser, which tends to conjure up the image of an adult hiding behind a computer screen talking to young people online. However this is not the only form of grooming and young people can also be targeted in person.

Grooming is a carefully planned process with the aim of controlling a young person, to ensure that they do exactly what the perpetrator wants. Initially, a young person may receive gifts and be showered with attention and affection, but this may later turn to blackmail, threats of violence or actual violence.

It is not a young person's fault if they are sexually exploited. Perpetrators are experienced manipulators and often have real or perceived power over the young person including age, emotional maturity, intellect and physical strength.

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.

CSE is a serious issue that affects thousands of young people throughout the UK. It can happen to any young person from any background and affects boys and young men as well as girls and young women. Some young people may be more vulnerable to exploitation than others. This include young people with learning disabilities, those who have experienced the death of someone important in their lives and those who are experiencing difficulties at home.

People affected by CSE

There are no particular types of young people that can be affected by CSE. Any young person from any background, whether male or female can be at risk. CSE happens in all areas of the country. Some young people may be more vulnerable to exploitation than others, and these include young people that have learning disabilities, those who have experienced the death of someone important in their lives and those who are experiencing difficulties at home.

CSE can occur in cars, hotels, houses, clubs and legitimate business premises, with a young person returning home afterwards.

Signs of CSE

There are a number of signs that could indicate a child or young person is being groomed for sexual exploitation. These include:

  • Going missing frequently or regularly returning home late.
  • Regularly missing school or college.
  • Having unexplained gifts or unaffordable new items in their possession.
  • Reducing their contact with family of friends.
  • Having older boyfriends and girlfriends or friendship groups.
  • Displaying inappropriate sexualised behaviour.
  • Suffering from sexually transmitted infections.
  • Mood swings and changes in emotional wellbeing or secrecy.
  • Drug and/or alcohol misuse.
  • Self harming.

Protecting my child from exploitation

Young people are particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation because they want to experiment, take risks, and push boundaries. However, there are a number of steps that you can take to protect your child:

  • Stay alert to changes in your child's behaviour or any signs of physical abuse such as bruising.
  • Talk to your child about healthy and unhealthy relationships.
  • Discuss internet safety with your child and take action to reduce any risks when they are online.
  • Be aware of the warning signs of CSE and access support if you have any concerns.

Concerns about a child

If you believe that a child is in immediate danger and needs protection call the police on 999.

If the child is not in immediate danger, but you would like some advice from the police, call 101.

Alternatively, you can contact Call Derbyshire on 01629 533190.

Other sources of support, resources and information

There a number of other sources of useful information and support available to help you. These include:

Safe and Sound Derby

Telephone: 01332 362120

Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation (PACE)

PACE is a national charity working with parents and carers whose children are sexually exploited. They offer advice, support and resources for parents and carers and children and young people:

Telephone: 0113 240 3040

Parents and carers can follow the simple registration process to access a free elearning course on the PACE website, on CSE aimed at raising awareness, identifying signs and providing advice on what to do if you have concerns.

CEOP's ThinkuKnow

The Think U Know website is is a useful website for all age groups including parents and carers looking at internet safety and safe surfing.


Barnardos offer advice regarding CSE including a video to help identify the tell-tale signs of abuse and practical steps you can take to protect children.


The NSPCC offer help, support and guidance for parents, carers, professionals and young people.


Kidscape equip young people, parents and professionals with the skills to tackle bullying and safeguarding issues across the UK.


The Internet Education Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization supported by public interest groups, corporations, and associations representative of the diversity of the Internet community.

UK Safer Internet Centre

Parents and carers play a key role in supporting children to learn about how to stay safe online, and they are one of the first people children turn to if things go wrong. We know it can be difficult to stay on top of the wide range of sites and devices that young people use, so we hope that this advice for parents and carers about staying safe online helps.

Family Lives

Family Lives provide free help and support in all aspects of family life

Video resources for parents and carers

This video has been put together by Essex Child in Care Council as part of the National CSE Awareness Day.

This video of Shona McGarty from BBC soap Eastenders, explains how to spot the signs of CSE.

The NSPCC produced this video "The story of Jay" to help young people understand'grooming in relationships and how to keep yourself safe. It tells the story of how sometimes relationships aren't what they seem.

This video is a fairy tale with a twist, to raise awareness of children being emotionally and sexually exploited by adults.

This video is to help identify the meaning of grooming.