How Is Child Sexual Exploitation Defined?

Child Sexual Exploitation is sometimes referred to as CSE 


A Definition 

The NWG Network has developed the following definition, which is utilised in the UK government guidance and policy.


"The sexual exploitation of children and young people under 18 involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where young people (or a third person or persons) receive ‘something’ (e.g. food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of performing, and/or others performing on them, sexual activities.

Child sexual exploitation can occur through use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition, for example the persuasion to post sexual images on the internet/mobile phones with no immediate payment or gain. In all cases those exploiting the child/young person have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and/or economic or other resources.Violence, coercion and intimidation are common, involvement in exploitative relationships being characterised in the main by the child or young person's limited availability of choice resulting from their social/economic and/or emotional vulnerability"


(The National Working Group for Sexually Exploited Children and Young People, 2008)



"Some one taking advantage of you sexually, for their own benefit. Through threats, bribes, violence, humiliation, or by telling you that they love you, they will have the power to get you to do sexual things for their own, or other people’s benefit or enjoyment (including: touching or kissing private parts, sex, taking sexual photos)"


As defined by the Young Women’s Group, New Horizons: 2008 (the Nia Project & The Children Society)


"Its when you don’t know your choices that other people have all the power"


(Taken from ‘Out of the Box: young people’s stories’ written by young people from Doncaster Streetreach and NSPCC London projects)

In all cases those exploiting the child/young person have power over them by virtue of one or a combination of the following: their age, gender, intellect (capacity), sexuality, physical strength and/or economic or other resources.

What Is Sexual Exploitation of a Child?

The sexual abuse of children (under 18 years) through exploitation and trafficking is harmful and extremely damaging, even life threatening, whereby children and young people are enticed and coerced into sexual acts.
The sexual exploitation and trafficking of this vulnerable section of society is a criminal act: a violation of the human rights of children and an act of violence.
The widespread nature of the crime suggests that all professionals may at some point come into contact with a person who has been exploited.

Children and young people who are Sexual Exploitated and /or Trafficked can be heterosexual, gay, lesbian, bisexual, they can be female, male or transgender.

However many victimised children and young people may be reluctant to disclose offences or seek support, often due to stigma, prejudice or embarrassment or the fear that they will not be believed. Many may see themselves as able to protect themselves but in cases of CSE physical stature is irrelevant due to the coercion and manipulation used.

Despite media focus, the majority of those who are victimised are not ‘looked after’ children.

It is estimated that only 20 – 25% of victimised children and young people are ‘looked after’. Children and young people living at home can be just as vulnerable, if not more vulnerable as they may not be known to social services and therefore are less likely to be identified as vulnerable to child sexual exploitation.

Young people who are targeted for exploitation are groomed and sexually exploited in many different forms. This could be online, through street gangs, in religious environments, and by those in positions of authority including celebrity. The common theme in all cases is the imbalance of power and the control exerted on young people.

Those that are victimised may appear to be willing accomplices however this should be seen in the context of the controls exerted by the perpetrator and the submission of the child/young person to them.

Where does sexual exploitation occur?

Evidence shows that CSE and Trafficking can and does happen in all parts of our country.


Child Sexual Exploitation is not restricted to urban areas such as large towns and cities but does in fact happen in rural areas such as villages and coastal areas.

Read more about the CSE process and signs to look out for on our resources sections and our public awareness site




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