Heyes Avenue, Haydock, St Helens, Merseyside WA11 0XQ

01744 678300

grangevalley@sthelens.org.uk

Grange Valley Primary & Nursery School

Inspire to Guide, Challenge and Achieve.

What is child sexual exploitation?

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a type of sexual abuse. When a child or young person is exploited they're given things, like gifts, drugs, money, status and affection, in exchange for performing sexual activities. Children and young people are often tricked into believing they're in a loving and consensual relationship. This is called grooming. They may trust their abuser and not understand that they're being abused.

Children and young people can be trafficked into or within the UK to be sexually exploited. They're moved around the country and abused by being forced to take part in sexual activities, often with more than one person. Young people in gangs can also be sexually exploited.

Sometimes abusers use violence and intimidation to frighten or force a child or young person, making them feel as if they've no choice. They may lend them large sums of money they know can't be repaid or use financial abuse to control them.

Anybody can be a perpetrator of CSE, no matter their age, gender or race. The relationship could be framed as friendship, someone to look up to or romantic. Children and young people who are exploited may also be used to 'find' or coerce others to join groups.

Types of child sexual exploitation

CSE can happen in person or online. An abuser will gain a child's trust or control them through violence or blackmail before moving onto sexually abusing them. This can happen in a short period of time.

When a child is sexually exploited online they might be persuaded or forced to:

  • send or post sexually explicit images of themselves
  • film or stream sexual activities
  • have sexual conversations.

Once an abuser has images, video or copies of conversations, they might use threats and blackmail to force a young person to take part in other sexual activity. They may also share the images and videos with others or circulate them online.

Gangs use sexual exploitation:

  • to exert power and control
  • for initiation
  • to use sexual violence as a weapon.

Children or young people might be invited to parties or gatherings with others their own age or adults and given drugs and alcohol. They may be assaulted and sexually abused by one person or multiple perpetrators. The sexual assaults and abuse can be violent, humiliating and degrading.

Signs of child sexual exploitation

Sexual exploitation can be difficult to spot and sometimes mistaken for "normal" teenage behaviour. Knowing the signs can help protect children and help them when they've no one else to turn to.

  • Unhealthy or inappropriate sexual behaviour.
  • Being frightened of some people, places or situations.
  • Bring secretive.
  • Sharp changes in mood or character.
  • Having money or things they can't or won't explain.
  • Physical signs of abuse, like bruises or bleeding in their genital or anal area.
  • Alcohol or drug misuse.
  • Sexually transmitted infections.
  • Pregnancy.
  • Having an older boyfriend or girlfriend.
  • Staying out late or overnight.
  • Having a new group of friends.
  • Missing from home or care, or stopping going to school or college.
  • Hanging out with older people, other vulnerable people or in antisocial groups.
  • Involved in a gang.
  • Involved in criminal activities like selling drugs or shoplifting. 

They may not know where they are, because they've been moved around the country, and seem frightened, confused or angry.

A child might know they're being sexually exploited. They might be worried or confused and less likely to speak to an adult they trust. If you're worried about a child and want to talk to them, we have advice on having difficult conversations.

If a child reveals abuse

If a child talks to you about sexual exploitation it's important to:

  • listen carefully to what they're saying

  • let them know they've done the right thing by telling you

  • tell them it's not their fault

  • say you'll take them seriously

  • don't confront the alleged abuser

  • explain what you'll do next

  • report what the child has told you as soon as possible.