Child Sexual Exploitation
Child Sexual Exploitation, or CSE as it is known, is the sexual abuse of a child or young person aged under 18 by an adult who involves them in inappropriate sexual activities either with themselves or another person.
The activity often takes place in exchange for money, alcohol, drugs, food, accommodation or presents such as clothing or mobile phones, and victims can be targeted in person or online.
Child sexual exploitation can occur through the use of technology without the child's immediate recognition; for example being persuaded to post images on the internet or using mobile phones without immediate payment or gain.
Violence, coercion and intimidation are common. Involvement in exploitative relationships is characterised by the child’s or young person’s limited availability of choice as a result of their social, economic and emotional vulnerability.
A common feature of CSE is that the child or young person does not recognise the coercive nature of the relationship and does not see themselves as a victim of exploitation.
Could you be a victim?
For children or young people who believe they may be a victim of sexual exploitation or feel uncomfortable or worried about anything happening in their life, tell someone that you can trust today.
Officers are always willing to listen to you – it doesn’t matter what the crime is, or how minor or serious you think it is. If you feel you can tell us about it, we will take action to bring offenders to justice and also offer you as much support as possible.
The signs of CSE
For parents, guardians, social care and health care professionals, as well as teachers and youth workers, some of the common signs that may indicate a child or young person is being sexually exploited are below (please note this is not an exhaustive or definitive list). You have an important role in recognising the signs and protecting that child or young person:
- Unexplained gifts
- Expensive belongings - clothes or mobile phones, for example - and habits such as alcohol and drugs which cost money the child is not likely to have access to
- Drug or alcohol abuse
- Going missing, running away or homelessness
- Being absent and truanting from school or showing signs of disengagement or considerable change in performance
- Getting into or out of different vehicles
- Being spotted at known places of concern
- Unexplained changes in behaviour, temperament or personality (e.g. chaotic, aggressive, sexual, mood swings)
- Inappropriate sexual behaviour/over familiar with strangers or sending sexualised images via the internet or mobile phones
- Association with older men, older people, anti-social groups and other vulnerable peers
- Being involved in abusive relationships, feeling intimidated and fearful of certain people or situations
- Gang fighting, affiliation with gangs and contact with known perpetrators
- Involvement with the police, offending and criminal activity
- Changes in physical appearance (losing weight, being malnourished)
- Self-harming, demonstrating suicidal thoughts and tendencies, overdosing on substances or eating disorders
- Injuries from physical assault, physical restraint or sexual assault
- Repeat sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, abortion or miscarriage
If you or someone close to you thinks they may be at risk online from a potential sexual offender, contact police on 101 or seek advice from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP).
Reducing the opportunity for child sexual exploitation
Some of the tactics the force uses to address child sexual exploitation include:
- Targeting paedophiles who sexually abuse and groom children and young people online
- Tackling offenders who use the internet to obtain and distribute indecent images of children
- Managing registered sexual offenders to prevent them from committing further crimes against children online
- Delivering educational talks to hotel staff, local school teachers and children’s home managers on how to spot the signs a child may be a victim of CSE
- Ongoing awareness training for officers and police staff of the key signs and vulnerabilities of CSE
- Close partnership work with local councils, Local Safeguarding Childrens Boards, housing providers, social services, youth services, the voluntary sector and many other organisations to manage known sex offenders and safeguard vulnerable young people
- Specialist police officers trained to investigate missing person reports and coordinate activity to locate them - in the case of CSE, those young people who regularly go missing or absent from home or care
- Long-term youth engagement to involve vulnerable young people in positive activities, such as sport or voluntary work, alongside police and partner agencies.
Internet safety tips for parents and guardians
The internet is a great educational resource for children, giving them access to a world of information and new experiences.
However, there are also risks to going online, but if you and your child understand them and can make sensible choices, they can get the most from the internet and stay safe while doing so.
Guidelines to help make your child safer online:
- Keep the computer in your family room where you can monitor your child’s activities and spend time online together to show your child proper behaviour and rules
- Become more computer literate – get to know the sites your child uses, what type of information they offer and whether there are ways to block out inappropriate material
- Help your child to understand some people lie online and it’s better to keep online mates online. They should never meet up with any strangers without an adult they trust
- The internet is not a private space – advise your children not to post any pictures, videos or information on their profiles or in chat rooms that they would not want a parent or guardian to see
- Never give out personal information online such as your home address, telephone number or child’s school name
- Always keep in mind that you leave information about yourself behind as you move through the internet
- Some websites collect information called ‘cookies’. Cookies are compiled lists of information that may include your name, address, telephone number and possibly even your credit card number. Find out how to turn off your cookies – contact your internet provider for help if you need it
- Never allow a child to arrange a face-to-face meeting with someone they have met online without your permission. If a meeting is arranged, make the first meeting in a public place and accompany your child to the meeting. If in doubt, contact the police
- Do not allow your child to respond to messages or bulletin board items that are suggestive, obscene or threatening. Forward a copy of such messages your internet service provider
- Do not allow them to access private chat rooms unless you are present
- Consider using an online service that has special child accounts with restricted access to chat rooms and the internet
- Monitor your credit card bill. Many pornographic internet sites require credit card payments in order to gain access
- For more information on staying safe online, visit www.thinkuknow.co.uk
Working in partnership with police, government, the internet and mobile phone industries, the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) operates the UK Hotline for reporting criminal online content.
The IWF’s service is free to the general public to help minimise the availability of illegal content and protect internet users. Find out more on their website: www.iwf.org.uk