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Child Sexual Exploitation - Worried about your child?

Do you know that child sexual exploitation can be hard to detect and abusers are very clever in their manipulation of children and young people, some will not even be aware that it is happening to them.

Girl looking at phone

What is CSE?

Child sexual exploitation is a form of sexual abuse which involves a 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 or affection.

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

Who is at risk of CSE?

Child sexual exploitation can happen to young people of any age, gender, sexual orientation, background or race.

CSE can happen online, or in person and can take place on a one to one basis between an abuser and a young person or in gangs and groups.

How does CSE happen?

In the beginning the young person is made to feel special by showing them interest and affection. This grooming can take place online or in person. They may be given gifts, somewhere to hang out, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs, a mobile phone or money for example.

Once the abuser has gained the 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 background, race or religion. They may be the same age - even attending the same school- or older than the young person. They will hold power over the young person - this may include being older, physically stronger, more popular or having more money.

Spotting the signs of CSE

Spotting the signs of CSE 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 placed you will be to help protect your child.

Your child 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

What can you do?

Talking with your children about healthy, unhealthy relationships and consent will help to highlight potential risks.

Talking with your children about consent (saying yes to something without being pressured to) is an ongoing process which should begin at an early age:

  • teach them how to ask for consent "Is it OK if I....?"
  • let them know that consent can be given or taken away at any time and should be asked for each time
  • discuss the importance of "No"
  • help them understand the difference between enthusiastic and non-responsive consent
  • be a good role model
  • when appropriate, ensure they know that they cannot give consent to anything sexual under the age of 16, when they are drunk or under the influence of drugs, or when they are asleep.

You can find further information about child sexual exploitation by using the following links :


Barnardo's -


If you are worried that your child 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 your child may be in immediate danger please call the Police on 999.

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