Child Sexual Exploitation

Advice if you are concerned about child exploitation

Are you worried about your child or teenager? How to get help if you think a young person you know is being sexually exploited. If you are worried about a young person, you must do something. There are specialists who can advise you on what to do next. They can also talk to any young person themselves.

If you are concerned about a young person you can contact the First Response Team on 0845 460 0001 or by email.

If you think a child or young person is in immediate danger call 999. Alternatively contact your local police on 101 who will have a dedicated team you can talk to about child sexual exploitation.

You can also talk confidentially about your concerns and seek advice from Stop it Now.

What is sexual exploitation?

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.

Are you worried about your child or teenager?

Children often show us rather than tell us that something is upsetting them. Sometimes things that seem like normal teenage behaviour could be a sign a young person is being sexually exploited.

Signs to watch out for:

  • Becoming withdrawn, clingy or unusually secretive
  • Unexplained changes in personality, mood swings and seeming insecure
  • Nightmares or sleeping problems
  • Running away, staying out overnight, missing school
  • Changes in eating habits
  • Talk of a new, older friend, boyfriend or girlfriend and unexplained money or gifts
  • Spending a lot of time online talking to new people
  • Losing contact with family and friends
  • Physical signs such as unexplained soreness or bruises around private areas
  • Or you may just be worried about unsafe sexual behaviour

Any one sign doesn't mean that a young person was or is being sexually abused, but the presence of several suggests that you should begin to ask questions and consider seeking help. Keep in mind that some of these signs can emerge at other times of stress such as:

  • During a divorce
  • Death of a family member or pet
  • Problems at school or with friends
  • Other anxiety-inducing or traumatic events

How does sexual exploitation happen?

We know from experience that some grown-ups target young people and draw them into abusive sexual relationships. This is how it works:

  • Older adults show them a lot of interest and affection at the beginning, and make them feel special.
  • Sometimes they ask groups of young people to come back to their house or go to parties.
  • They are offered drugs and alcohol and a place to chill out.
  • They may get presents like clothes, a mobile phone, or money to buy alcohol and cigarettes- After they have gained the youngster's trust and affection, things change.
  • They will ask for sexual favours for themselves or other people, in return for alcohol, drugs, presents, money - all the things they started giving for free.
  • They stop being nice and can become threatening or violent.

See these sites for further information:

Think UK Now
Safeguarding Children leaflet