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What is CSE?


Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a form of child sexual abuse. 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. *

Any child in any community is vulnerable to Child Sexual Exploitation regardless of their background, upbringing, race, ethnicity, sexuality or gender. However, there are particular groups of young people at increased risk due to vulnerability factors including:

Runaways/missing young people
Unaccompanied asylum seekers at risk of being trafficked
Homeless or vulnerably housed young people
Looked After Children and Children Leaving Care
Children and young people with learning difficulties
Children associated with a gang activity
LGBTQ young people

Child Sexual Exploitation can affect any child or young person under the age of 18, including 16 and 17 year olds who can legally consent to sex.

Child Sexual Exploitation can happen without the young person’s immediate knowledge. For example through others copying and sharing sexually explicit images on social media.
Perpetrators of Child Sexual Exploitation can be individuals or groups, males or females, and children or adults. The abuse can be a one-off occurrence or a series of incidents over time, and range from opportunistic to complex organised abuse.

In all cases of Child Sexual Exploitation there will be an imbalance of power in favour of the perpetrator. This can be due to a range of factors including age, gender, intelligence, physical strength, social status or wealth. 

*This definition has been adapted from the 2017 guidance from the Government Department for Education (DfE).