Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is an increasingly high profile issue that affects children and young people of all backgrounds and from all communities, right across the UK. Children are most vulnerable to sexual exploitation between the ages of 13 and 15, but younger victims are being targeted all the time.

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a type of child abuse. It happens when a young person is encouraged, or forced, to take part in sexual activity in exchange for something. 

  • The reward might be presents, money, alcohol, or simply emotional
  • It can happen to any child or young person
  • It might seem like a normal friendship or relationship to begin
  • It can happen online or offline, and without the young person being aware of it

Any young person can be a victim of child sexual exploitation. It can happen to boys as well as girls. It can happen to young people of all races and backgrounds. Young people experiencing problems at home who go missing or are in care can be vulnerable an particularly at risk but child sexual exploitation can also happen to those from a loving, supportive home. No matter who is affected by child sexual exploitation, it is never, ever their fault – even if they agree to the sexual activity because they felt they ‘should’. A child may agree to sexual activity because they felt they had no other choice and or do not fully understand consent.

People who commit child sexual exploitation can be very manipulative. They might buy presents or give emotional attention that makes a young person feel on top of the world, or as if they are falling in love. They may single out their victims and target them face-to-face, or approach them online.

Sometimes the abuser will strengthen their control over the young person by driving them away from those who would usually look after them, whether that’s family, friends or carers.