What is Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)?

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is a form of sexual abuse.

Many parents can find it hard to spot the signs that their child is being exploited, as some of these can be very similar to issues that any child or young person might face. Someone is a child in the eyes of the law until they reach the age of 18, so we use the term “child” here to include children and young people up to the age where they legally become an adult.

CSE happens when a child is coerced into sexual activities by a person or people who have targeted them because of their age, or because of their real or perceived vulnerability.

CSE can be perpetrated by an individual or by a group of people. The majority of perpetrators are male, although not exclusively, and perpetrators can be of any age or from any background.

The perpetrator will seek to exercise power and control over the child through grooming them. Grooming might involve the child being given gifts (eg: drugs, alcohol, clothes, a phone), or them being shown a lot of attention or affection initially to make them believe they are in a relationship with the perpetrator. The child might then feel they owe the perpetrator or they are in debt to them, and this can lead to them performing sexual activities or having sexual activities performed on them, sometimes in return for the “gifts” described above.

Sometimes CSE happens online, and children may not immediately understand that they have been exploited. This can happen when they are persuaded by someone who they may or may not know to share sexual images online.

CSE can sometimes take the form of the child being threatened with physical violence, or there being threats towards other people in their life to prevent them from speaking out about what is happening to them.

Many young people do not see that exploitation is happening to them, and they might believe they are in a relationship with the person who is exploiting them.

CSE happens in all sorts of places within and beyond Devon and Cornwall, to boys and girls, and to young people from all sorts of backgrounds. Increasingly, across the UK, children may experience both sexual exploitation and criminal exploitation at the same time.

It is important for parents to know there is support available, that you are not to blame, and that you are not on your own.


Please also refer to the PACE website for more information:

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