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1. What is sexual exploitation?

The level of coercion used to groom and abuse young people should never be underestimated.  

Sexual exploitation can involve swapping sexual favours for drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, promises of affection, and other presents. It may involve having sex for money with several adults or other young people. Children or young people may feel they must have sex because an adult or other young person gives them or promises them something, or because they feel threatened or frightened.

Some young people may want to have sex because they think the perpetrator is their boyfriend, girlfriend or friend. In reality they are being used for sex, and the boyfriend, girlfriend or friend may pass them on to other people too, it is important to remember that sexual abusers can be women as well as men.

Who is likely to be sexually exploiting children:


  • Primarily males, but can also be woman. 
  • Peers both male and female 
  • People from all backgrounds, ethnicities and ages 
  • Criminal gangs 
  • Online perpetrators 
  • Sometimes even family members.

The statutory definition of CSE is a "form of child sexual abuse. It occurs where an individual or group take 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. CSE does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.” HM Government February 2017