Torbay Safeguarding Children Board

What is Child Sexual Exploitation? 

Child Sexual Exploitation (or CSE as it is sometimes referred to) is a term that explains what happens when abusers encourage children and young people under 18 into sexually exploitative situations, contexts and relationships. These often involve the young person being given things such as food, accommodation, drugs, affection, gifts of money in return for performing sexual activities. Victims will often be groomed for a period of time before physical or sexual abuse takes place.

Child Sexual Exploitation is a form of child abuse, it is not a specific criminal offence but the term encompasses a range of different forms of serious criminal conduct and a number of individual offences. The sexual exploitation of a child or young person will almost certainly involve the commission of a crime, or have the potential for a crime to be committed.

CSE can occur through the use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition, for example the persuasion to post or send sexual images of themselves with no immediate payment or gain. In all cases those exploiting the child or young person have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and resources available to them.

Violence, coercion and intimidation are common in child sexual exploitation cases as many perpetrators target vulnerable young people. The vulnerability is often due to economic or physical circumstances that leave the young people with few choices, however, it is important to remember any child may be targeted so it is important to help them keep safe.

Some realities….

Evidence shows that CSE can and does happen in all parts of the country. CSE is not restricted to urban areas such as large towns and cities but does in fact happen in rural areas such as villages and coastal areas – just like Devon.

Both perpetrators and victims are known to come from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. CSE is not a crime restricted to British Pakistani Muslim males or white British girls, despite media coverage of high profile cases.

Boys and young men are also targeted as victims of CSE by perpetrators. However, they may be less likely to disclose offences or seek support, often due to stigma, prejudice or embarrassment or the fear that they will not be believed.

There is evidence that women can be perpetrators too. They may use different grooming methods but are known to target both boys and girls

How are children sexually exploited?

Children can be sexually exploited in many different ways, to help you understand and recognize what might be going on here are a few models that you should be aware of:

The inappropriate relationship

The young person is in a relationship with an older partner who exerts a great deal of influence and control over them due to an imbalance of power. The young person is likely to believe they are in a serious adult relationship and not recognise its exploitative nature.

Peer exploitation

The young person is in a relationship with another young person who is coercing them into some form of sexual activity with their friends. Based on national and local analysis we believe that in Devon that the majority of child sexual exploitation is perpetrated by the peer groups of the victims and that over half of those that sexually exploit children are themselves under 18.

Organised exploitation

The young people (often connected) are passed through networks, possibly over geographical distances, between towns and cities where they may be forced /coerced into sexual activity with multiple people. Often this occurs at ‘sex parties’, and young people who are involved may be used as agents to recruit others into the network.

Online Exploitation

Any of the above models may involve online exploitation where the young person shares sexual images or videos or is coerced into carrying out sexual acts via web-cam. According to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP), most child sexual exploitation offences take place online. Analysis by the centre reveals that 13 and 14 year olds represent the largest single victim group of online exploitation.


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