Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation

Child sexual abuse (CSA) involves forcing or persuading a child or young person under the age of 18 to take part in sexual activities, whether or not the child is aware of what is happening. Sexual abuse includes a range of different acts and behaviours. It can take place in many different contexts, and be committed by a range of different people. 

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a form of child sexual abuse. Child sexual exploitation is a term used to describe where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child under the age of 18 into sexual activity. The child may have been sexually exploited even where the sexual activity appears consensual. For instance, the child might have been led to believe they are in a consensual relationship with the person. 

Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology, such as social media and gaming apps. It’s important that people recognise that exploitation is child sexual abuse and should be seen as such.  

Child sexual abuse and exploitation | Barnardo’s (barnardos.org.uk)

If you believe a child or young person is in immediate danger call – 999.

If there is no emergency but you think a crime may have been committed, telephone: West Mercia Police 101 or report online Report a crime | West Mercia Police

There are many types of child sexual exploitation:

  • Individual – a single perpetrator may groom and exploit the victim.
  • Gang – exploitation may form part of a gang culture and may be used as an initiation or as a punishment.
  • Group – a group of people come together with the explicit aim of grooming and sexually exploiting young people.
  • Peer-on-peer – exploitation is perpetrated by a person or persons of the same age as the victim.
  • Online – grooming and exploitation take place entirely online and the victim and the perpetrators never meet in real life.
  • Abuse of authority – grooming and exploitation is carried out by somebody with authority over the victim.
  • Party – victims are invited to a party where they may be plied with alcohol or drugs and then sexually exploited.

Grooming is when someone builds your trust and makes a connection with you to get you to do something sexual or illegal. Grooming can happen to anyone, and it is never your fault.

Someone could be groomed by someone they know, by a stranger or by a person they met online. That person could be older, the same age, or even someone who’s in a position of authority over you, like a teacher or sports coach.

Because grooming involves using trust against people, it can be hard to recognise when it’s happening. If you’re worried about someone’s behaviour or something that’s happened to you, you can get support from Childline talk to us.

There are lots of different reasons someone might groom another person. They might try to:

  • have sexual conversations or share sexual messages
  • get someone to send nudes or sexual images or videos
  • take part in live streams or video chats that become sexual
  • pressure or threaten someone into selling drugs, hurting other people or doing something illegal
  • blackmail someone into giving money, sharing images or giving out personal information
  • meet up in person, or travel somewhere new.

Grooming and online grooming | Childline

The following services offer information, guidance and resources for children and young people, parents and carers and professionals.

Support information for young people

Child trafficking | Childline

Information & Advice For Young People | The Children’s Society (childrenssociety.org.uk)

STOP CE – Guides for parents and carers

Helpful Guides – STOP CE – (stop-ce.org)

Child Sexual Exploitation & How to Keep Your Child Safe | NSPCC

Parents and carers | CEOP Education (thinkuknow.co.uk)

If you see something say somethingChild Exploitation and Online Protection – Report online. 

CEOP Safety Centre

Information and resources for professionals.

Professionals | CEOP Education (thinkuknow.co.uk)

For 11 to 18 year-olds the internet relationships and you. 

11-18s | CEOP Education (thinkuknow.co.uk)

Information for 8 to 10 years-old.

8-10s | CEOP Education (thinkuknow.co.uk)