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Practitioners guide and toolkit - Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is Child Sexual Abuse.

CSE has two distinctive characteristics - exploitation and exchange.

Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse in which a person(s), of any age takes advantage of a power imbalance to force or entice a child into engaging in sexual activity in return for something received by the child and/or those perpetrating or facilitating the abuse. As with other forms of child sexual abuse, the presence of perceived consent does not undermine the abusive nature of the act.

What does CSE involve?

  • CSE is a complex issue and can affect any child or young person; male or female; anytime; anywhere - regardless of their social; economic or ethnic background.

  • CSE should not be seen in isolation, but in the wider context of vulnerability and risk.

  • CSE is often hidden and can involve features of violence, coercion and intimidation.  Involvement in exploitative relationships are characterised in the main by the child or young person's limited availability of choice, resulting from their social; situational; psychological; physical; economic and/or emotional vulnerability.

  • CSE can also occur through the use of technology and without the child's immediate recognition, e.g. being persuaded to post sexual images of themselves on the internet/mobile phones without any immediate payment or gain.

  • CSE perpetrators have power over their victims by virtue of their age; gender; intellect; physical strength; and / or economic or other resource.  The gain for those perpetrating or facilitating CSE can include financial benefit; sexual gratification; status or control.

Victims of CSE rarely disclose their abuse.  This may be due to fear, or they do not recognise they are a victim of CSE, or they may consider themselves to be in a loving adult relationship with the abuser.  The sophisticated grooming and priming processes conducted by the perpetrators and the exchange element can also act as additional inhibitors and/or barriers to disclosure.

In some CSE cases, the sexual abuse may take place between the victim and the perpetrator; in other CSE cases the victim may be passed between two or more perpetrators and in some CSE cases this may be organised by criminal gangs or organised groups.

Last modified on 07 February 2024

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