Knowing the signs of CSE

Keeping the children you love safe


Learn the signs of child sexual exploitation and discover how we all have a role in stopping CSE

Teenage girl

With 16,500 children at high risk of sexual exploitation in England, it’s important you know how to protect the children you love by recognising the signs and symptoms of exploitation.

 

HELP US STOP CHILD SEXUAL EXPLOITATION


What is child sexual exploitation, CSE?

Child sexual exploitation is a type of sexual abuse involving control of a child through force, threats or manipulation. It can happen to both boys and girls. Often, the first step is someone befriending a young person to gain their trust or have control over them. This is called grooming, and can lead to children being abused and raped.

Children can be groomed online or in the real world, by a stranger or by someone they know.

 An abuser can be any age, even the same age as the child. It will often involve an abuser providing something to a child such as food, drugs, alcohol, gifts, or even simply affection, and victims are often tricked into thinking their abuser is a friend or even a ‘boyfriend’.

Once they have the child’s trust or control over them, an abuser will then move on to physically or sexually abusing a child. They may steer conversations towards sexual experiences, asking the child to send sexual photos or videos of themselves which they might use to blackmail the child. They might threaten the child saying they will hurt their family or friends if they tell anyone.

Child sexual exploitation is a type of sexual abuse involving control of a child through force, threats or manipulation. It can happen to both boys and girls. Often, the first step is someone befriending a young person to gain their trust or have control over them. This is called grooming, and can lead to children being abused and raped.

Children can be groomed online or in the real world, by a stranger or by someone they know.

 An abuser can be any age, even the same age as the child. It will often involve an abuser providing something to a child such as food, drugs, alcohol, gifts, or even simply affection, and victims are often tricked into thinking their abuser is a friend or even a ‘boyfriend’.

Once they have the child’s trust or control over them, an abuser will then move on to physically or sexually abusing a child. They may steer conversations towards sexual experiences, asking the child to send sexual photos or videos of themselves which they might use to blackmail the child. They might threaten the child saying they will hurt their family or friends if they tell anyone.

Spotting the signs of CSE

Child grooming signs

Many of these are common teenage behaviours, but keep an eye out for increased instances of changes in behaviour that may be signs of grooming:

  • Being secretive about who they are talking to and where they are going

  • Often returning home late or staying out all night

  • Sudden changes in their appearance and wearing more revealing clothes

  • Becoming involved in drugs or alcohol, particularly if you suspect they are being supplied by older men or women

  • Becoming emotionally volatile (mood swings are common in all young people, but more severe changes could indicate that something is wrong)

  • Using sexual language that you wouldn’t expect them to know

  • Engaging less with their usual friends

  • Appearing controlled by their phone

  • Switching to a new screen when you come near the computer.

Child grooming signs

Many of these are common teenage behaviours, but keep an eye out for increased instances of changes in behaviour that may be signs of grooming:

  • Being secretive about who they are talking to and where they are going

  • Often returning home late or staying out all night

  • Sudden changes in their appearance and wearing more revealing clothes

  • Becoming involved in drugs or alcohol, particularly if you suspect they are being supplied by older men or women

  • Becoming emotionally volatile (mood swings are common in all young people, but more severe changes could indicate that something is wrong)

  • Using sexual language that you wouldn’t expect them to know

  • Engaging less with their usual friends

  • Appearing controlled by their phone

  • Switching to a new screen when you come near the computer.

 

Less common behaviours and indicators of exploitation could include:

  • Being associated with a gang

  • Becoming estranged from family

  • Reguarly missing school

  • Associating with older men and women, particularly if they go missing and are being defensive about where they are and what they’re doing

  • Possessing items such as phones or jewellery that you haven’t given them but which they couldn’t afford to buy themselves

  • Having more than one, or a secret phone.

You should be aware of the following signs of CSE and abuse:

  • They are regularly suffering from sexually transmitted infections

  • They have unexplained physical injuries such as bruising

  • Having mood swings or being emotionally volatile

  • Self-harm or suicide attempts.

Less common behaviours and indicators of exploitation could include:

  • Being associated with a gang

  • Becoming estranged from family

  • Reguarly missing school

  • Associating with older men and women, particularly if they go missing and are being defensive about where they are and what they’re doing

  • Possessing items such as phones or jewellery that you haven’t given them but which they couldn’t afford to buy themselves

  • Having more than one, or a secret phone.

You should be aware of the following signs of CSE and abuse:

  • They are regularly suffering from sexually transmitted infections

  • They have unexplained physical injuries such as bruising

  • Having mood swings or being emotionally volatile

  • Self-harm or suicide attempts.

What you can do to stop child sexual exploitation



Think about placing restriction settings on online devices. Find out more at thinkuknow.co.uk.

Always call the police when a child goes missing, even if this happens regularly. You do not need to wait 24 hours.

Let children or young people know they can talk to someone on anonymous support services such as ChildLine.org.uk.

Explain that it’s easy for people to lie about age, gender, interests online and children should never arrange to meet someone without an adult who they trust.

Make sure children or young people know that once they share personal details online, including pictures, they lose control over where these may end up.

Listen to what children say and take it seriously. It’s important you believe them.



Useful resources to help stop CSE

  • You can report any concerns about online grooming to the National Crime Agency.

  • Report any child abuse images you find online to the Internet Watch Foundation.

  • If a child wants to talk to someone in confidence they can call ChildLine on 0800 1111 or Get Connected on 0808 808 4994 (text 80849).

Children need your help

Children and young people are being exploited across the UK and many are not getting the right therapeutic support to cope with their trauma.

Please donate today.