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Child Sexual Exploitation

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a crime of devastating and long-lasting consequences for its victims and their families. Childhoods and family life can be ruined, and this can be made worse when victims, or those at risk of abuse, do not receive the support they need.

Girl with blue eyes

Understanding the signs of child sexual exploitation and knowing where to get help and support if you are worried about a child or young person can help because child sexual exploitation is happening in Dumfries and Galloway, not just in cities like we see on the news.

What is CSE?

Child sexual exploitation is a form of sexual abuse which involved a child or young person under the age of 18, being manipulated, forced or pressured into taking part in sexual activity in exchange for things such as gifts, money, alcohol, drugs or affection.

Due to the manipulative tactics abusers often use, a child or young person may believe that they are in a loving and supportive relationship and may not be aware they are a victim of abuse.

Who is at risk?

Child sexual exploitation can happen to children and young people of any age, gender, sexual orientation, background or race. Child sexual exploitation can take place online, or in person and can take place on a one to one basis between an abuser and the child or young person, or in gangs or groups.

This can include sexting, which is the sending of sexual images or words of a sexual nature to a young person under 18. Young people should never feel pressured into doing this, it is breaking the law.

How does CSE happen?

In the beginning the child or young person is made to feel special by the abuser by showing interest and affection. This grooming of children and young people can take place online or in person.

They may be given gifts, somewhere to hang out, popularity, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, a mobile phone or money for example. Once the abuser has gained the child or young person's trust they may request sexual favours for themselves and/or others in return. The abuser then stops being nice and can become threatening and violent.

Abusers can be men or women, from any race or religion. They may be the same age, even attending the same school, or older than the child or young person. They will hold power over the child or young person, this may include being older, physically stronger, more popular or having more money.

Spotting the signs:

Spotting the signs of child sexual exploitation isn't always easy - the warning signs can be similar to the ups and downs young people experience as part of growing up. However, there are changes in behaviour that might be a sign that something serious is going on. The more you are aware of what to look out for, the better places you will be to help protect children and young people in your community.

A child or young person could be at risk if you spot any of the following:

  • Mood swings and changes in emotional wellbeing
  • Secretive behaviour
  • Skipping school
  • Coming home late or staying out over night
  • New friends
  • An older boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Constantly on the phone or online
  • Unexplained, expensive new things
  • Using drugs or alcohol
  • Change in style, tastes or behaviours
  • Unexplained marks or scars
  • Being picked up and dropped off by people you don't know
  • Losing touch with their family and usual friends
  • Unsafe sexual behaviour or infections
  • Hanging out with other young people involved in exploitation
  • Displaying inappropriate sexualised behaviour
  • Receiving messages or calls from new contacts

How do I report concerns about a child or young person?

If you are worried that a child or young person might be at risk of, or experiencing child sexual exploitation please contact 030 33 33 3001 and ask for the Social Work Access team.

If you think a child or young person may be in immediate danger please call the Police on 999.