Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)
“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, for example being persuaded to post sexual images on the internet/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 resulting from their social, economic or emotional vulnerability.
CSE has been given government status as a national threat for the police and partner agencies. Awareness and understanding of CSE has increased a huge amount in the last few years.
Child sexual exploitation tends to be a hidden activity and much more likely to take place in private residences than visibly, on the streets. Barnardo’s has identified three different models of activity; they are not exhaustive, but show a spectrum of exploitation, as follows:
- Inappropriate relationships usually involving one perpetrator who has inappropriate power or control over a young person (physical, emotional or financial). One indicator may be a significant age gap. The young person may believe they are in a loving relationship.
- “Boyfriend” model of exploitation and peer exploitation. The perpetrator befriends and grooms a young person into a ‘relationship’ and then coerces or forces them to have sex with friends or associates. Barnardo’s have reported a rise in peer exploitation where young people are forced or coerced into sexual activity by peers and associates. Sometimes this can be associated with gang activity but not always.
- Organised/networked sexual exploitation or trafficking Young people (often connected) are passed through networks, possibly over geographical distances, between towns and cities where they may be forced/coerced into sexual activity with multiple men. Often this occurs at ‘sex parties’, and young people who are involved may be used as agents to recruit others into the network. Some of this activity is described as serious organised crime and can involve the organised ‘buying and selling’ of young people by perpetrators.
Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE)
“Child Criminal Exploitation occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, control, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into any criminal activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) for the financial or other advantage of the perpetrator or facilitator and/or (c) through violence or the threat of violence. The victim may have been criminally exploited even if the activity appears consensual. Child Criminal Exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.”
The criminal exploitation of children includes a combination of:
- Pull factors: Children/young people performing tasks for others resulting in them gaining accommodation, food, gifts, status or a sense of safety, money or drugs; often the hook is through the perpetrator supplying Class B drugs such as cannabis to the child/young person.
- Push factors: Children escaping from situations where their needs are neglected and there is exposure to unsafe individuals, where there is high family conflict or the absence of a primary attachment figure.
- Control: Brain washing, violence and threats of violence by those exploiting the child/young person, particularly when the child/young person is identified by the police, and is expected to take full responsibility for the offences for which they are charged – i.e. possession and supply of illegal substances.
If you are concerned that a child or young person is at risk of or experiencing abuse through exploitation, please refer to your local authority link below to be directed to the correct page.