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Child Sexual Exploitation

 "Catch 22" provide services to children and young people re Child Sexual Exploitation

Contact details: call 01782 237106 or email

"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)

Child sexual exploitation is when someone grooms and controls a child for a sexual purpose.

It can happen to boys and girls, it can happen in rural and urban areas, it can happen face to face and it can happen online. It is a form of child abuse and should be treated as a child protection issue.

What is child sexual exploitation?

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 a 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 have 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 abusive situations on the part 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.

Sexual exploitation through street grooming can include: 

  • grooming a child for a sexual purpose. This might involve befriending the child, gaining their trust, giving them drugs, alcohol or gifts, asking them to perform sexual acts as a favour or in exchange for something
  • the movement of children within the UK for the purpose of sexually abusing them (also referred to as internal trafficking)
  • the trafficking of children into the UK from other countries for the purpose of sexually abusing them
  • controlling a child through physical or psychological means or through the use of drugs for a sexual purpose
  • receiving money or goods in payment for someone to have sex with a child (also referred to as child prostitution)
  • paying or exchanging goods for sex with a child.

Online sexual exploitation can include: 

  • grooming children online for the purpose of sexually abusing them. This might involve an adult pretending to be a child, befriending the child through online chat rooms, social networking websites, email, mobile telephone messaging, gaining their trust, stalking their online activities
  • asking children to participate in non-contact sexual activities such as engaging in sexual conversations online or via mobile telephone
  • asking children to take and share indecent images of themselves online or through a mobile telephone
  • asking children to display sexualised behaviours or perform sexual acts that are recorded or shared live via webcam
  • the creation, storage and distribution of child abuse images (also referred to as child pornography or indecent images)
  • arranging to meet a child in person for the purpose of sexually abusing them. 

Kayleigh’s Love Story -  is a film about aspects of the last 13 days of the life of 15-year-old Kayleigh Haywood.  Please note that if the film was to be shown in British cinemas it would have a 15 age certificate

The film highlights a warning to children and adults of the dangers of grooming and sexual exploitation following Kayleigh’s tragic death in November 2015.

Vulnerable children and young people

Research and practice shows certain groups of children and young people are at higher risk of being sexually exploited through street grooming. Those particularly at risk include:

  • missing or runaway or homeless children
  • looked after children
  • children with prior experience of sexual, physical or emotional abuse or neglect
  • adolescents or pre-adolescents
  • girls (boys are also at risk but current research suggests most victims are girls. Boys are considered less likely to disclose which may explain the gender imbalance and may also make boys more vulnerable)
  • children not in education through exclusion or truancy or children regularly absent from school
  • social exclusion from services such as health services
  • children from black and minority ethnic communities
  • children from migrant communities
  • refugee children and unaccompanied asylum seeking children
  • trafficked children
  • children with mental health conditions
  • children who use drugs and alcohol
  • children with learning difficulties and disabilities
  • children involved with gangs or living in communities where gangs are prevalent
  • children from families or communities with offending behaviours
  • children living in poverty or deprivation.


The following list of indicators is not exhaustive or definitive but it does highlight common signs which can assist professionals in identifying children or young people who may be victims of sexual exploitation. Signs include:

  • unexplained gifts
  • unaffordable new things (clothes, mobile) or expensive habits (alcohol, drugs)
  • drug use, alcohol abuse
  • going missing, running away, homelessness
  • disengagement with school, not in school, truancy, exclusion
  • repeat sexually transmitted infections; in girls repeat pregnancy, abortions, miscarriage
  • inappropriate sexual behaviour
  • sexually risky behaviour, 'swapping' sex
  • association with older men
  • hanging out with groups of older people, anti-social groups, other vulnerable peers
  • unexplained changes in behaviour or personality (chaotic, aggressive, sexual)
  • involved in abusive relationships, intimidated and fearful of certain people or situations
  • contact with known perpetrators
  • self-harming, suicide attempts, overdosing, eating disorders
  • injuries from physical assault, physical restraint, sexual assault
  • getting into/out of different cars
  • seen at known places of concern

It is not the case that a set number of signs mean definitively that a child or young person is a victim of sexual exploitation. The more signs, however, the greater the risk of sexual exploitation.

Difficulties in identifying victims

It can be difficult to identify children and young people who have been or are being sexually exploited.

Children who have been sexually exploited by organised crime networks are often fearful for their safety even after being removed from the exploitative situation. These children may find it very challenging to form trusting relationships with adults in positions of power, for example with child protection professionals.

Young people may not see themselves as victims. They may believe their abuser is their boyfriend and loves them. They may be unwilling to say anything that could get their boyfriend in trouble or cause their boyfriend to become angry or break up with them.

In some situations, such as in gangs, there may be the belief that the abuse is normal and a rite of passage.

There may not be any peer support for the victim. The child's friends may all be in the same situation, under the control of an abuser or part of the network who is exploiting them. There may be nowhere for the child to go to escape their abusers.

They may be dependent on the things they receive such as money, drugs, alcohol, and accommodation.

For young people who have a history of offending behaviour or are currently involved with the criminal justice system, there may also be a difficulty in recognising them as a victim and treating their experiences as a child protection issue.

There is an urgent need to free our children and young people from sexual exploitation, which often takes place out of sight in our towns and cities. Often the victims are not identified as the tell-tale signs are overlooked, and too often sexual exploitation is not recognised.

With the need for urgent action Barnardo's have published a report detailing this form of child abuse. "Puppet on a String". To view this document click on this 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. For further information follow the link to Virtual College website

Useful links

Child Sexual Exploitation principles - Give us a voice - Document attached below

How do I know if I'm being groomed?
Voice box, Childline’s weekly video chat, features Lucy Fallon who plays Bethany Platt in Coronation Street and Helen, a Childline counsellor, talking about grooming. They give advice on how to spot the signs of grooming and how young people can get support if they are worried that they or a friend are being groomed.
Source: YouTube Date: 07 June 2017    Further information: Childline

The NSPCC have a series of short animated films dealing with child sexual exploitation - click on the links

NSPCC launches PANTS song and animation to help protect children from sexual abuse
This latest development,  is the PANTS song and animation. You can view this on the NSPCC website:
You can also see it on You Tube

P – Privates are private
A – Always remember your body belongs to you
N – No means no
T – Talk about secrets that upset you
S - Speak up, someone can help.

Grange Park SARC - Sexual Assault Referral Centre -

Staffordshire SARC is at the Cobridge Community Health Centre this is operated by G4S Health Services and includes the SARC Management and the provision of Nurse Examiners. This communication will clarify the new contact details:.
The address details remain the same.
Grange Park SARC   Cobridge Community Health Centre
Church Terrace   Stoke-on-Trent   ST6 2JN

Contact Details:
The office telephone number for the SARC is 01782 980380 – this number can be used by professionals for advice, booking video interviews, deliveries etc.

There will continue to be two referral routes to access the SARC service, access via the police or the self-referral route for over 18s. Those who are aged 16 and 17 self-referrals will be considered by the clinician after initial discussion with the client.

Adults who want to speak to someone about accessing the SARC can call the Self-referral line which is available 24 hours a day. The self-referral line will take the client through to our call centre where a trained call handler will re-direct the call as required. The Self-referral Line is 0800 970 0372

Adobe - To view the linked documents you will need a copy of Adobe Acrobat Reader. To download a free copy please go to

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