Child Sexual Exploitation

According to UK National Working Group for Sexually Exploited
Children and Young People (NWG)
, Sexual Exploitation of children under the age of 18, both girls and boys, 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 (CSE) 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.

CSE is often hidden and may go unnoticed; however it is a major child protection issue in the UK. The child may trust their abuser and often are unaware that what is actually happening is abuse. The child may feel that they are dependent on their abuser however are fearful to tell anyone about what is happening.

Department for Education
Click here for a definition and guide for practitioners, local leaders and decision makers working to protect children from child sexual exploitation.

Click here for Annexes to ‘Definition and a guide for practitioners, local leaders and decision makers working to protect children for child sexual exploitation'.

Click on the link for information on Child Exploitation and Online Protection Command (CEOP)

Here are just some of the signs and indicators which demonstrate that a child may be sexually exploited:

Physical Signs

  • unexplained injuries
  • multiple pregnancies
  • sexually transmitted diseases
  • pelvic inflammatory disease
  • a rapid change in appearance

Behavioural Signs

  • sexualised behaviour
  • self-harm
  • change in eating habits
  • mental health problems
  • disruptive behaviour

Risk factors

  • low self-esteem
  • absence from home or school
  • issues around body image
  • alcohol and drug abuse
  • family bereavement
  • parents with alcohol problems
  • dysfunctional family home
  • being in care
  • having a learning disability

CSE resources
These resources have been developed by the ‘CSE Principles Comic Project (2017) by Una Comics and the University of Bedfordshire’. Copyright of the images belongs to Una Comics. 

Researchers from the ‘International Centre: researching child sexual exploitation, violence and trafficking’ conducted focus groups with young people in different Hub and Spoke projects, asking them about their experiences of CSE services.  From this they have developed 10 principles are based on a review of the experiences of young people affected by CSE, and each is accompanied by explanatory text and two quotes from young people that illustrate different elements of the principle. 

To see the reources click here

Local guidance on Child Sexual Exploitation:
The CSE strategy for Kingston & Richmond has recently been updated to reflect The London Child Sexual Exploitation Operating Protocol (June 2017) and now includes the following sections:

  • Section 1: Local CSE Strategy
  • Section 2: CSE referral flow chart, referral forms for CSE & MASE and terms of reference for meetings
  • Section 3 : Practice guidance

Please click on the following links:

Click on the links below for more information on CSE
Safeguarding children and young people from sexual
exploitation supplementary guidance to Working Together to
Safeguard Children


NHS – How to spot child sexual exploitation

Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation (PACE UK) - provides a free online course 

Barnardos – Child Sexual Exploitation

Harmful Sexual Behaviour 
The NSPCC has published helpful learning about working with children and young people, who exhibit sexualised behaviour, that may be harmful. It can be accessed via this link.

The Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse
The Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse has published key briefings around CSE for Police, Health practitioners, Education, Social Workers, and Commissioners here.

Brook Traffic Light Tool
Brook has a helpful traffic light tool for all practitioners considering age and developmental stage here:

By identifying sexual behaviours as GREEN, AMBER or RED, professionals across different agencies can work to the same criteria when making decisions and protect children and young people with a unified approach. It considers sexual behaviour for children aged 0-17 years.

Red behaviours are outside of safe and healthy behaviour and a referral should be made to MARVE. Red behaviours may be:

  • excessive, secretive, compulsive, coercive, degrading or threatening;
  • involving significant age, developmental, or power differences;
  • of concern due to the activity type, frequency, duration or the context in which they occur.

Factsheet here:

Local Case Study
Please click here to find our local learning around HSB, a case study from Police.

Harmful Sexual Behaviour and the Everyone's Invited website
Case Studies and Guidance for Schools