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Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)


What does Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) mean?

Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. It occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator. The victim may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.

Although in the U.K the age of consent is 16, a 16 or 17 year old can still be sexually exploited. Irrespective of age, a person’s ability to give consent may be affected by a range of other factors, including alcohol, drugs, threats of violence, grooming or an imbalance of power between perpetrator and victim.

Who can be affected by Child Sexual Exploitation?

Sexual exploitation can happen to any young person – whatever their background, age, gender, race or sexuality or wherever they live.

  • Risk factors include:
  • a history of abuse, particularly sexual abuse
  • recent bereavement or loss
  • homelessness
  • low self-esteem or self-confidence
  • being a young carer
  • being in or leaving care
  • links to a gang through relatives, peers or intimate relationships
  • living in a gang-affected neighbourhood
  • lacking friends from the same age group.

Some risk factors are common across all types of abuse and neglect. But they don’t mean that abuse will definitely happen. A child or young person who doesn’t have any of these risk factors could be abused and a child with multiple risk factors may never experience abuse or neglect. But we do know that having one or more of these issues can increase the risk of harm.

Who sexually exploits children and young people?

Perpetrators of  child sexual exploitation will manipulate or use coercion to get a young person to engage in sexual activities as a result of threats of violence against them or their family. CSE can involve both gangs or groups and individuals and in all cases, it is an abuse of power by the perpetrators by virtue of their age, gender, intellect and physical strength and/or economic or other resources.

Children or young people may be tricked into believing they’re in a loving, consensual relationship. They might be invited to parties and given drugs and alcohol. They may also be groomed and exploited online.

The majority of perpetrators are male, evidence would indicate that the age range of abusers is from 12 to 75 years. In 2012 Barnardo’s reported an increase in sexual exploitation by peers in 8 of their services. They found young people were sexually exploiting peers either directly by sexually abusing victims themselves or indirectly by introducing children and young people to abusers.

Kayleigh’s Love Story

This is a true story and shows upsetting scenes if shown in a cinema it would carry a 15 Certificate. The film has been made with the support of Kayleigh’s family.

This video was developed by Leicestershire Police following the true case of a 15 year old girl who was groomed online by a man she didn’t know over the course of just 13 days and then was tragically murdered by his friend. The video is currently being used with schools in Leicestershire  to raise awareness of the importance of online safety.

Kayleigh Haywood began speaking to Luke Harlow, a man she had never met, on 31 October 2015.

Over the course of 13 days they exchanged 2643 messages. Harlow told the 15-year-old all the things many teenage girls want to hear. He told her she was beautiful, how much he cared for her and that she was special.

Harlow was grooming Kayleigh, along with two other young girls he had also been speaking to. But it was Kayleigh that finally agreed to his requests to spend the night of Friday 13 November 2015 at his house.

She spent the next day with him too, and in the early hours of Sunday 15 November, having been held against her will by Harlow and by his next door neighbour Stephen Beadman, Kayleigh was raped and murdered by Beadman.

Kayleigh’s Love Story is as a warning to young people, both girls and boys, about the dangers of speaking to people they don’t know online. The film highlights just how quick and easy it can be for children to be groomed online without them or those around them knowing it is happening. Its purpose is to protect children now and in the future and to stop another family losing a child in this way.

Sources of help and support if you or someone you know is at risk of CSE

Wud U? App

Get the free Wud U? App for your phone click on the picture for more information


Merseyside Police tackling Child Sexual Exploitation – to listen to real life stories from young people click on Listen to My Story – suitable for ages 11+

Click into the leaflet to download

Brook Wirral works to raise awareness, educate and actively protect young people from child sexual exploitation. Research also shows that grooming and sexual exploitation of young people takes many forms. It can involve technology where the child or young person is persuaded to share sexual images via the internet or mobile phones with no immediate payment or gain. A young person may be coerced into sexual activities as a result of threats of violence against then or their family. CSE can involve both gangs or groups and individuals and in all cases, it is an abuse of power by the perpetrators by virtue of their age, gender, intellect and physical strength and/or economic or other resources. For more information about the services Brook provides visit Brook Wirral here

Catch22 Wirral Missing and Child Sexual Exploitation Service works with young people under 18 years old across the Wirral who are missing from home or care, or experiencing or at risk of child sexual exploitation. Comprehensive screening and assessment of young people is undertaken to identify CSE risk and incidence, followed by programmes of intervention which enable young people to reflect upon and recognize CSE. The service offers training to groups of young people (preventative and targeted) as well as professional training to members of the children and young people’s workforce. For more information about the Catch22 service visit here

If you or anyone you know is at immediate risk of harm always dial 999

You can contact the Integrated Front Door for further help and advice

email: [email protected]

telephone between the hours of 9:00 – 5:00pm 0151 606 2008

Out of hours telephone 0151 677 6557