Child Sexual Exploitation

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

It is the deliberate exploitation of a child purely for the sexual gratification of adults.

CSE involves young people and children being 'groomed' and sexually exploited.  It can take many forms, such as through an apparently 'consensual' relationship with an older person or a young person having sex in return for attention, gifts, cigarettes or alcohol. It does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.

Many young people who are being exploited do not realise they are at risk and will not ask for help. Some may see themselves as willing participants in such abuse, not realising that what is happening to them is illegal.

Children and young people who become involved face risks to their physical, emotional and psychological health and wellbeing.

Any young person could become a victim of child sexual exploitation; the crime affects both girls and boys, from any background and of any ethnicity. Boys and girls can be trafficked for sexual exploitation. Child trafficking includes the movement of children on the way to the UK as well as domestically within the UK, between different areas.

There are 3 main types of CSE:

This usually involves one perpetrator who has inappropriate power or control over a young person. There is often a significant age gap and the victim may believe they are in a loving relationship.

The perpetrator befriends and grooms the young person into a ‘relationship’ and then convinces or forces them to have sex with friends or associates. This is sometimes associated with gang activity.

Peer exploitation is where young people are forced or coerced into sexual activity by peers and associates. Sometimes this can be associated with gang activity, but not always.

Young people are passed through networks, possibly over geographical distances, where they are forced into sexual activity with multiple men. This often occurs at ‘sex parties’ and the young people may be used to recruit others into the network. Some of this activity is described as serious organised crime and can involve the organised ‘buying and selling’ of young people by perpetrators.

It can happen to boys as well as girls, from rich and poor backgrounds, of any ethnicity and anywhere in the world, including here in Dorset.

It can happen through direct contact and through technology such as mobile phones and the internet.

NSPCC Video - The story of Jay

NSPCC Video - Gangs

Tell me more

This can include, but is not limited to, one or a number of the following:

  • They go missing regularly, from home, care or school
  • There is history of domestic, sexual, physical or emotional abuse or neglect in the family
  • They misuse drugs or alcohol or have parents who misuse drugs or alcohol
  • They are young carers within the family
  • They’re living in poverty and feel socially excluded or isolated
  • They’ve experienced recent bereavement or loss
  • They have unsupervised access to social networking sites or chat rooms
  • They’re experiencing mental ill health
  • They have social or learning difficulties
  • They have low self-esteem or self-confidence
  • They're unsure about their sexual orientation or gender identity and feel unable to confide in anyone
  • They have been or are currently excluded from education
  • They are involved with gangs
  • They have friends, or go to school with, other children who are being sexually exploited
  • They are being bullied
  • They have older friends
  • They are homeless

Children from loving and secure homes can also be victims of sexual exploitation.

What makes a child vulnerable is not his or her age, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity, but their powerlessness and susceptibility to being exploited.

These can include, but are not limited to, one or a number of the following:

  • They’re acting secretively, having mood swings or changes in temperament or emotional wellbeing
  • They change their appearance dramatically maybe dressing in inappropriate clothes or sudden weight loss
  • They become involved in petty crime such as shoplifting or stealing
  • They’re absent or truant from school or show a lack of interest or sudden poor performance
  • They have unexplained gifts or new possessions such as mobile phones or jewellery
  • They become suddenly hostile towards or estranged from their family or friends
  • They go missing for periods of time or regularly return home late or are found somewhere they've no links to
  • They have more than one or share their boyfriend or girlfriend
  • They’re seen getting into or out of vehicles with unknown adults
  • They become sexually active, pregnant or seeking an abortion or treatment for sexual diseases
  • They’re getting phone calls and/or text messages from unknown adults
  • They’re using drugs and alcohol (often as a means of being controlled by their abusers)
  • They have unexplained injuries consistent with sexual or physical assault
  • They self-harm or are having suicidal thoughts or tendencies
  • They're behaving inappropriately, being over-familiar with strangers, sending sexual images via the internet or mobile phones


Spot the Signs - Barnardo's leaflet for parents and carers

The trafficking of children (under 18) includes all forms of child trafficking within and on the way to the UK, as well as the movement of children domestically within the UK, between areas or even within the same area. Children are most commonly trafficked to be forced into labour, domestic servitude and for child sexual exploitation (CSE). Sexual exploitation victims are primarily from the UK.

As with adult victims, child victims are forced or coerced under verbal or physical threats to them or their families, but with an additional level of vulnerability due to their age.

Click here for more information about human trafficking and modern slavery. 

Talk to your children and young people about what makes a healthy relationship and help them make decisions about what’s right for them.

Be aware of what makes a child vulnerable to sexual exploitation.

Be aware of the warning signs that a child may be experiencing sexual exploitation.

Tell someone about any concerns you might have about children at risk or suspected offenders. Never assume someone else has passed on the information you have. Duplicate information is better than none.

Report online here or by calling 101, dial 999 if a child is in immediate danger.

Information about people who pose a risk to children can be given to parents and guardians under the Dorset Police Child Sex Offenders Disclosure Scheme. Follow this link to find out more about Sarah's Law (The Child Sexual Offenders Disclosure Scheme).

It is our aim that no child should have to suffer sexual exploitation and that all victims deserve a future with brighter prospects away from harm.

Dorset Police is committed to pro-actively identifying vulnerable children and young people at risk of sexual exploitation and we’ve put a lot of resources into ensuring all our officers and staff can recognise the signs.

Together with our partners in local authorities, education and health, we’re working to ensure children at risk are properly protected and safeguarded.

Sometimes it can be years before someone who’s been the victim of child abuse comes forward to report it.

Whatever the situation, we take all reports of child abuse seriously and have specially trained officers in our Child Abuse Investigation teams who can support victims through the interview, investigation and court processes.

We also have a Paedophile Online Investigation Team which is dedicated to proactively investigating incidents of online abuse including the making, possession and distribution of indecent images of children.

Local Authority Children's Social Care: 

Bournemouth: 01202 458101

Poole: 01202 735046

Dorset: 01202 228 866,



Leaflets for children and young people, parents, professionals and others:


0808 800 5000

National Helpline for male victims of rape or childhood sexual abuse

0808 800 5005

Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) Centre

CEOP is the UK’s national police agency for dealing with child protection, particularly tackling offenders who use online technology to abuse children.

Visit the website at

Safe Schools and Communities Team

For useful tips and advice about how to stay safe online visit the Dorset Police Safer Schools and Communities Team website page

Internet Matters

Online safety experts, Internet Matters can guide you through the many issues children can experience when using the internet: 

Childline - Fight Against Porn Zombies Campaign

FAPZ is an awareness campaign by ChildLine, aimed at young people aged 13 to 16 years. The campaign highlights that online porn does not reflect real life and builds young people’s resilience towards online porn. 

ChildLine is part of the NSPCC. They are concerned that contacts to ChildLine about porn have increased and discussion threads on the ChildLine website message boards with porn in the title are viewed over 18,000 times per month. Viewing porn has become normalised for young people and it is important to emphasise that pornography isn’t real. It can give the viewer a negative view of him/herself, and can cause problems in real-life relationships.  Watching porn can lead to a range of associated issues such as porn addiction, eating disorders, body image issues, social isolation, depression and at the worst end harmful sexual behaviours.

Visit the Childline website for more information.

For support and advice visit Childline or call them on 0800 11 11. 


Indecent images of children: guidance for young people is available here. 

Be aware of the warning signs that a child may be experiencing sexual exploitation.

Tell someone about any concerns you might have about children at risk or suspected offenders. Never assume someone else has passed on the information you have. Duplicate information is better than none.

You can submit information by filling in the information form available here. Please note: this form is for use by agencies and professionals who work with children. If you are a member of the public and you have concerns about Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) please report them here. 


Evidence shows that B&Bs and hotels are often used as locations to meet, groom and abuse children.

As a result, hotels and B&Bs are in a unique position to help. It's not just a good idea for people in this service industry to be able to spot the signs of CSE, it’s their responsibility.

Click her for more information and advice. 

If you have concerns about people who may be exploiting children sexually, call the police on 101.

In an emergency, if a child is in immediate danger, always call 999.

Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111

NSPCC: 0808 800 5000,


You can also report concerns directly to The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP):

CEOP is a command of the National Crime Agency, and is dedicated to tackling the sexual abuse and exploitation of children and young people. CEOP is here to help young people (up to age 18) who have been forced or tricked into taking part in sexual activity with anyone online or in the real world. 


Local Authority Children's Social Care: 

Bournemouth: 01202 458101

Poole: 01202 735046



Always tell someone about any concerns you might have about children at risk or suspected offenders. Never assume someone else has passed on the information you have. Duplicate information is better than none.

You can also submit information by filling in the information form available here and emailing to

Are you concerned about your own behaviour or someone close to you? 'Stop it Now!' can offer confidential help and support.

They work with people to help them learn to control their thoughts and behaviours.

Call the free, confidential helpline on 0808 1000 900 or visit

Reporting for agencies and professionals

Multi-Agency Information Sharing Report

Case Studies

Some people form relationships with young people to use them for sex.

People who do this want young people to think they are a friend, or a boyfriend or girlfriend. They want to gain their trust to get power over them. They might also use bribes, threats, humiliation and even violence to get power over them.

They use that power to force them to have sex, or do sexual things, with them and sometimes with other people. This is sexual exploitation and it’s a crime.

It happens to boys and girls and can be really hard to spot. Often people think they’re in a good relationship, even after things have turned bad.

But there are warning signs. It’s really important that you know how to spot them so you can protect yourself and your friends.

Ben's Story

Beth's Story

Raj's Story

Charlotte's Story

Provide feedback on this page