Child sexual exploitation
Child sexual exploitation involves situations, contexts or relationships in which a person under 18 is given something, such as food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts or money in return for performing sexual activities or having sexual activities performed on them. It can also involve violence, coercion and intimidation, with threats of physical harm or humiliation.
In all cases of child sexual exploitation (CSE), the person exploiting the child or young person is able to create the impression of authority over them in some form. This could be because of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength or economic situation.
Sexual exploitation of children can start through the use of technology, without them immediately realising. For example, they might be persuaded to post images on the internet or via mobile phone without immediate payment or personal gain.
Violence, coercion and intimidation are common, with a particular vulnerability of the child or young person being used against them. This can make the young person feel as though they have no choice but to continue the relationship.
Signs of a child or young person being in an exploitative relationship can vary. Some examples are:
- going missing from home or care
- physical injuries
- misuse of drugs or alcohol
- involvement in offending
- repeat sexually-transmitted infections, pregnancies or terminations
- absenteeism from school
- deterioration in physical appearance
- evidence of online sexual bullying
- evidence of vulnerability on social networking sites
- emotional distance from family members
- receiving gifts from unknown sources
- recruiting others into exploitative situations
- poor mental health
- thinking about or attempting suicide
If you suspect a person of carrying out child sexual exploitation, or think someone you know has been a victim, or may be soon, visit our How to report possible child abuse page or call our non-emergency number, 101. If you're deaf or hard of hearing, use our textphone service on 18001 101.
If someone is in immediate danger of harm, please call 999 now. If you're deaf or hard of hearing, use our textphone service 18000 or text us on 999 if you’ve pre-registered with the emergencySMS service.
What are we doing about child sexual exploitation
Cleveland Police is committed to preventing child sexual abuse, helping victims and bringing offenders to justice. It's a crime that can affect any child, anytime, anywhere – regardless of their social or ethnic background.
Sexual exploitation is child abuse and, although they may not realise it, it puts the young victim at huge risk of damage to their physical, emotional and psychological health.
We support the Department for Education's 'Together we can tackle child abuse' campaign, which encourages members of the public to report child abuse and neglect.
It will tackle the barriers that stop people reporting child abuse and shows that we all have a role to play in protecting children and young people.
A national charity helping children in poverty, supporting young carers and helping families looking to foster or adopt.
National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)
A national children's charity, preventing abuse and helping those affected to recover.
Parents Against Child Exploitation (PACE)
The leading national charity working with parents and carers of sexually exploited children.
A UK organisation campaigning against child trafficking and exploitation.