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Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a type of sexual abuse. Children in exploitative situations and relationships receive something such as gifts, money or affection as a result of performing sexual activities or others performing sexual activities on them.
Children or young people may be tricked into believing they're in a loving, consensual relationship. They might be invited to parties and given drugs and alcohol. They may also be groomed and exploited online.
Some children and young people are trafficked into or within the UK for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Sexual exploitation can also happen to young people in gangs
Child sexual exploitation is a hidden crime. 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.
It can involve violent, humiliating and degrading sexual assaults, including oral and anal rape. Child sexual exploitation doesn't always involve physical contact and can happen online.
When sexual exploitation happens online, young people may be persuaded, or forced, to:
- send or post sexually explicit images of themselves
- take part in sexual activities via a webcam or smartphone
- have sexual conversations by text or online.
Abusers may threaten to send images, video or copies of conversations to the young person's friends and family unless they take part in other sexual activity.
Images or videos may continue to be shared long after the sexual abuse has stopped
What are the signs of CSE?
Sexual exploitation can be difficult to identify as signs can be mistaken for “normal teenage behaviour”. Those involved in CSE may:-
- be involved in abusive relationships, intimidated and fearful of certain people or situations
- associate with groups of older people, or antisocial groups, or with other vulnerable peers
- associate with other young people involved in sexual exploitation
- be involved in gangs, gang fights, gang membership
- have older boyfriends or girlfriends
- spend time at places of concern, such as hotels or known brothels
- not know where they are, because they have been moved around the country
- go missing from home, care or education.
Other indicators include:
- being withdrawn
- suddenly behaving differently
- being clingy
- being depressed
- problems sleeping or nightmares
- eating disorders or changes in eating habits
- wetting the bed or soiling clothes
- taking risks
- frequent absence from school
- obsessive behaviour
- misuse of drugs or alcohol
- self-harm or thoughts about suicide
- sexually activity at a young age, promiscuity or use of sexual language or knowledge inconsistent with age
- have physical symptoms e.g. anal or vaginal soreness, an unusual discharge, have a sexually transmitted infection (STI), become pregnant
What should you do if you suspect a girl or boy is the victim of CSE?
Members of staff who think a student is the victim of or is at risk of CSE should report this as a child protection issue to the Safeguarding Lead.
Members of the public should report this to the police or to MASH (020 8770 6001)