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Sexual Exploitation

The sexual exploitation of children and young people (CSE) under-18 is defined as that which:

‘involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where young people (or a third person or persons) receive ‘something’ (e.g. food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of them performing, and/or another or others performing on them, sexual activities. Child sexual exploitation can occur through the use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition; for example being persuaded to post sexual images on the Internet/mobile phones without immediate payment or gain. In all cases, those exploiting the child/young person have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and/or economic or other resources. Violence, coercion and intimidation are common, involvement in exploitative relationships being characterised in the main by the child or young person’s limited availability of choice resulting from their social/economic and/or emotional vulnerability’  

“Yes you was my everything I dedicated my all to you, at the beginning you were my morning, noon and night. Why did you change? why did you become obsessive? Why did you hurt me and treat me like a trophy, something that belonged to you “your property” was I your girl or your belonging an item to misuse and mistreat”.



See sexual assault

The law not only sets down 16 as the age of consent, it also applies to whether a person has given their consent to sexual activity, or was able to give their consent.

How are children exploited?

1. Inappropriate relationships

These relationships usually involve one perpetrator who has power or control over a young person due to being physically stronger, older or wealthier. This can include familial abuse – when an older family member

 2. Older adult exploitation – often referred to as the ‘boyfriend’ model

The adult offender of CSE is usually at least five years older and befriends and grooms the young person by focusing on their vulnerabilities. The victim will initially feel they are in a positive and rewarding relationship with the perpetrator. 

3. Trafficking

Young people are passed by perpetrators through networks, between towns and cities, where they may be forced or coerced into sexual activity with multiple people. Young people are often used to recruit other young people to take part in so-called ‘sex parties’ where this can occur.

4. Peers

Trafficking sometimes involves the ‘buying and selling’ of young people by individuals involved in serious organised crime.Incidents may occur publicly or involve multiple perpetrators.

These signs are from the NSPCC’s Protect and Respect resources and a range of research (Barnardo’s, 2011; CEOP, 2011; Berelowitz et al, 2012). 


Useful Resource – Barnados (2015) Digital Dangers  . This resource explores the impact of technology on the sexual abuse and exploitation of children and young people.

 Two Little Girls