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Child sexual exploitation (CSE)

What is CSE?
Child sexual exploitation happens when a young person is encouraged, or forced, to take part in sexual activity in exchange for something, for example, food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts or money.

Perpetrators can be adults pretending to be a friend, boyfriend or girlfriend or they could even be a person at school, college or online.

It is important to remember that this can happen to any child or young person, can happen on and offline and that sexual abusers can be both male and female.

How does it happen?

  • At the beginning, the person makes you feel special by showing you a lot of interest and affection.
  • Sometimes they ask groups of young people to come back to their house or go to parties.
  • Sometimes you are offered drugs, alcohol and a place to chill out.
  • You may be given presents like clothes, a mobile phone, or money to buy alcohol or cigarettes.
  • After they have gained your trust and affection things change.
  • They will ask for sexual favours for themselves or other people in return for alcohol, drugs, presents, money. All the things that were previously given for free.
  • They stop being nice and can become violent or threatening.

Spot the warning signs

If you answer ‘yes’ to any of the questions below, you may be at risk of sexual exploitation by adults:

  • Do you stay out overnight?
  • Have you been missing from home?
  • Do you skip school?
  • Does someone outside your family give you money, clothes, jewellery, a mobile phone or other presents?
  • Do you have an older boyfriend or girlfriend?
  • Do you take drugs or drink alcohol?
  • Are you losing touch with your family and friends?
  • Do you hate yourself sometimes?
  • Are you secretive about where you go and who you see?
  • Do you chat to people online you have never met?

How to get help

You are not to blame if you are being abused. The adults who have taken advantage of you are responsible and they are the people who have done something wrong.

If you can, talk to someone that you trust, such as a parent, carer or a close family member. If you are unable to talk to someone at home, talk to a friend, teacher or someone in your community you trust.

If you are worried that you, or someone you know, is being abused contact the Police, giving as much information as you can. Your report will be investigated by specially trained staff and officers.

  • Phone 101
  • If you are in immediate danger phone 999
  • Visit your local police station.

For confidential support and advice
Text or call the National CSE helpline anonymously on 116 000 or visit the website


Contact Childline (not just for young children) in confidence on tele: 0800 1111 or online at to get help and advice about a wide range of issues. You can talk to a counsellor online or you can send an email or post on the message boards.