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Child Sexual Exploitation

Three Girls

The recent BBC Three Girls programme showed the true stories of victims of grooming and child sexual abuse (CSE) in Rochdale. If the programme has made you concerned about a child or about something you have seen you can find information below about what to do, what CSE is and how to spot the signs.


 "Know About Child Sexual Exploitation" (CSE) is a local website. It contains information on how to Spot the Signs and Report CSE. Real stories are shared to highlight how CSE can exist and affect lives. (Click on the link

Are parents in the picture:  Professional and parental perspectives of child sexual exploitation is the first comprehensive survey of parents' and professionals' thoughts about child sexual exploitation.  To access a free online training course click here.  This course is suitable for both parents and professionals.

Child sexual exploitation is a major child protection issue for communities across the UK. Hidden from view and going unnoticed, vulnerable young girls and boys are groomed and then abused.

The scale of CSE in Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent is currently being analysed and we realise that further developments are required to strengthen the collection of data in order to fully appreciate the true scale of this issue. The Multi-Agency forum for Children at Risk of Child Sexual Exploitation (MACaRoSE) are responsible for underpinning the principles of the CSE joint strategy and driving forward the actions emerging from this document. The strategy underpins a united agreement that clearly demonstrates how agencies will work together to minimise the risks to children and young people across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.

The fundamental principles of the strategy:

  • a shared responsibility
  • an integrated approach
  • a proactive approach
  • a child-centred approach and support for parents and carers
  • recognising criminality

This document can be accessed via this link: Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent Safeguarding Children Boards Child Sexual Exploitation Strategy

Child Sexual Exploitation - Guidance / Definition

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 of 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"

It is also helpful to think in terms of a the following :

  • ‘Child sexual exploitation is a form of sexual abuse in which a person(s) exploits, coerces and/or manipulates a child or young person into engaging in some form of sexual activity in return for something the child needs or desires and/or for the gain of the person(s) perpetrating or facilitating the abuse.’
  • The something received by the child or young person can include both tangible items and/or more intangible ‘rewards’ OR ‘benefits’ such as perceived affection, protection or a sense of value or belonging. Fear of what might happen if they do not comply can also be as significant influencing factor. The gain for those perpetrating or facilitating the abuse can include financial benefit, status or control.
  • CSE can take a variety of different forms. It can take place in person or online and involve both contact and non-contact sexual activities, including the production and distribution of sexual images or exposure to such images. Whilst CSE is not a specific criminal offence in itself, it does encompass a range of sexual offences and other forms of serious criminal misconduct that can be used to disrupt and prosecute this form of abuse.
  • Any child under the age of eighteen, male or female, can be a victim of CSE, including those who can legally consent to sex. The abuse most frequently impacts upon those of a post-primary age and can be perpetrated by adults or peers, on an individual or group basis.
  • CSE can be difficult to identify. Many children and young people – and professionals – can misinterpret such experiences as consensual and fail to recognise the exploitation involved. This can contribute to misplaced feelings of loyalty or shame on the part of victims, many of whom will consequently not self-disclose, and a potential failure to identify abuse situations on the part of professionals. However, the fact that all such scenarios are typified by a power imbalance in favour of those perpetrating the abuse and/or some form of vulnerability or limited availability of choice on the part of the young person clearly delineates/distinguishes the experiences as abusive.

Who is at risk of CSE?
The reality is that any child or young person, from any social or ethnic background, can be exploited. Boys and young men can be at risk as well as girls and young women. Research has shown that a number of factors can increase a young person's vulnerability to sexual exploitation.

We also know that some groups of young people are more vulnerable to targeting by the perpetrators of sexual exploitation. These include children with disabilities (particularly children with a learning disability), those living in care (particularly residential care), those who are excluded from mainstream school and those who misuse drugs and alcohol. There is growing concern that these children are increasingly being targeted by abusers who are developing more sophisticated grooming techniques.

Spot the signs
Early intervention is crucial in order for professionals to proactively tackle the growing problem of CSE. Everyone within each agency or organisation has a responsibility to keep children and young people safe. By becoming aware of and understanding the risk indicators or factors that push or pull children and young people into CSE enables practitioners to effectively intervene at an early stage, aiming to reduce and/ or eliminate the risk. Parents and carers can also prove to be a valuable resource in attempting to spot the signs of CSE. Some of the examples below indicate the signs:

Low risk

  • Poor self image
  • Unaccounted for monies and/or goods
  • Reduced contact with family /friends
  • Experimental with alcohol/ drugs
  • Overt sexualised dress / attire
  • Regularly coming home late.

Medium risk

  • Getting into men's cars
  • Frequently staying out overnight without permission.
  • Looking well cared for despite having no known base.
  • Sexualised risk taking
  • Expressions of despair: internal - self harm
  • Concerns for drug dependency
  • Multiple STIs

High risk

  • Disclosure of physical/sexual assault followed by withdrawal of allegation.
  • Persistently running away/going missing from placement.
  • Non-school attendee
  • Unaccounted for monies and/or goods
  • Picked up in red light district
  • Offending Behaviour
  • Older boyfriend (5+ years)

To download Barnardo's 'Spot the Signs' leaflets, please click on the links below:

Leaflet for Children and Young People
Leaflet for Parents
Leaflet for Professionals 

What can we do?
If anyone has a concern about the safety of a child or young person and you suspect that they at risk of/ involved in CSE then you can contact

The number to call if you are worried about a child or young person and think they may be the victim of neglect or abuse:

If you think a child or young person is in immediate danger telephone 999

If a child or young person is at risk of significant harm contact the
Safeguarding Referral Team Telephone 01782 235100

You can call someone in Stoke-on-Trent to help if you are worried about a child or young person and think they may be a victim of neglect or abuse
Advice and Access team Telephone 01782 232200

Emergency Duty Team - 01782 234234 (After 5pm)

If you have information about anything that could be useful then it could be used to build a case. The following examples offer you an insight into what kind of information the police find useful:

  • the registration of a car, even if it's part of a registration and the colour
  • the name of a contact the child or young person regularly phones/ meets and is outside their circle of usual friends
  • the name of a taxi from that drops off or collects the child or young person
  • the place where the child or young person regularly hangs out with friends
  • gifts they come back with such as a new phone, money, food, clothing

These are the kind of things the CSE team would need. You can either ring using the numbers above or complete the police information report form which can be down loaded from the following link: Police Information Report Form 

Grange Park Sexual Assault Referral Centre

Grange Park is a centre providing services to men, women and children living in Stoke-on-Trent and Staffordshire, who have been raped or sexually assaulted.

At Grange Park you can access a range of services that are free and confidential.

For more information on Grange Park and the services offered, please visit:
Contact Grange Park by calling 0300 7900 166 by emailing 

Other useful organisations that can help

NSPCC Child Protection Help line 0808 800 5000

Childline 0800 1111

NHS Help line 111

Victim Support 0300 303 1977

Savana 01782 221005

Staffordshire Women's Aid 0870 2700 123


Further Information

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre and Microsoft have created a new app, free to download from the Windows store, to allow parents and children to access CEOP's educational videos, see the latest campaigns, report suspicious or inappropriate contact online or follow CEOP's Facebook page or Twitter feed updates. 

See the latest updates
Don't forget when you're looking at our website to refresh your pages to make sure you're seeing the latest updates of information and support. Just click your control key and the refresh button on your computer at the same time to refresh the web page you are looking at. 

If you work in an area whereby you care for, or have close contact with children and families and would like further CSE awareness; please see the professionals tab for information, resources and details of available training.

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