Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)

Child sexual exploitation involves a young person under the age of 18 being manipulated, forced or coerced into taking part in a sexual act in exchange for something.

This could be as part of what looks like a consenting relationship, or in return for attention, money, food, alcohol or somewhere to stay.

The young person may think that their abuser is their friend, or even a boyfriend or girlfriend. But the abuser will put them into dangerous situations, forcing the young person to do things they don't want to do.

The abuser may physically or verbally threaten the young person or be violent towards them. They will control and manipulate them, and try to isolate them from friends and family. Perpetrators of CSE are from any community, any religion, any race, any colour.

Young people can be sexually exploited in all kinds of different ways. These can include:

Boyfriend, girlfriend or best friend

The offender, usually older, encourages a close relationship with the young person, whether as a friend or as their boyfriend or girlfriend. At first, the young person feels good about the relationship with the offender giving them affection, attention, alcohol, drugs, money, gifts or simply treating them like an adult.

In time however, things change. The offender might tell the young person that in order to repay them or prove that they care they need to have sex. This might be with the offender themselves or the offender's friends.


Online, it's easy for offenders to pretend to be someone else of a different age or gender. Using websites, forums and social media, they'll go about gaining the victim's trust.

That done, they might suggest meeting up, fully intent on abusing the young person. Or, they may try to talk the young person into sending naked photographs, taking part in sexual activities via a webcam or smartphone, or having sexual conversations by text. Sometimes they'll encourage the victim by offering a gift or compliments in return.

Chance meeting

Child sexual exploitation can also happen quickly without any relationship or grooming. The offender may simply see a young person out late at night or hanging around a place for over 18s only - and spot a potential victim. Children who are visibly vulnerable are more likely to be targeted, for example those who go missing, are out late at night or go to adult environments.

They'll offer the young person a lift, money, cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, even a place to stay in exchange for sexual activity.

Same-age abusers

Offenders aren't always older than their victims. In many cases a person or group of people the same age as the victim - their peers - does the abusing.

This might start off as a seemingly normal relationship where the offender slowly but surely manipulates the victim into doing sexual things with them or taking part in sexual acts with other people.

Organised networks

Some organised networks of offenders work together to share photos and videos of young people. Other networks push them into having sex with adults by inviting them to parties and encouraging them to bring their friends along too.

Once there, victims will be invited into a culture where drink, drugs and sex with strangers is both the norm and expected, putting them under pressure to go along with things.

Who's at Risk?

Anyone. Boy or girl. Child or teenager. Gay or straight. Someone who's happy at home or someone who's experiencing difficulties. Able or disabled.