Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)

CSE is a form of child abuse in which the victim is often given something, such as food, money, drugs, alcohol or gifts in exchange for sexual activity with the abuser. It can affect any child, boys and girls, anytime, anywhere, regardless of social or ethnic background.

The manipulation or 'grooming' process involves befriending children, either online or in person, and gaining their trust. Grooming may take place over a long period of time before the abuse begins and often involves the perpetrator feeding the victim drugs or alcohol.

Those exploiting the young person will have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and/or economic or other resources. This 'power' then manifests itself as 'romance' or 'friendship'. As the exploitation escalates, terrifying threats and violence may be used to control the victim and keep them compliant.

CSE is child abuse and although you may not realise it, it puts the victim at huge risk of damage to their physical, emotional and psychological health.

How do I know if I'm being exploited?

Warning signs of child sexual exploitation include;

  • Has the young person received unexplained gifts or money?
  • Do they use their mobile phone secretively?
  • Do they have significantly older friends?
  • Have they been picked up from home or school by someone you don't know?
  • Are they associating with other young people who are already known to be vulnerable or involved in exploitation?
  • Have they started playing truant from school or regularly going missing from home?
  • Have they suffered from a sexually-transmitted infection?
  • Are they self-harming?
  • Has their appearance changed

Many young people who are being abused believe they are in a consensual relationship and may not recognise the coercive nature of the relationship or see themselves as a victim.

What should I do if I think someone I know is being exploited?

If you are worried that you or someone you know is a victim of Child Sexual Exploitation please contact Sussex Police immediately on 101 giving as much information as possible.

Any reports of Child Sexual Exploitation will be passed to their safeguarding investigations unit and dealt with by specially trained staff and officers.

You can report CSE anonymously and Sussex Police will record and investigate offences even if you do not want to give your details.

If a person is in immediate danger or a crime is in progress always dial 999.

If you prefer not to report to the police please contact Social Services, or you can report anonymously via Crimestoppers.

You can also contact any of the organisations listed on the right hand side of this page for help and support, whether you choose to report to the police or not.

Scarlett's Story

Are you worried that you're being abused? Watch this video which shows how quickly a relationship can turn abusive without you realising.


Who can help me?


To make a counselling referral: 01243 786349
Freephone Helpline: 0808 802 0808
Text Helpline: 07717 989 022

Home-Start East Sussex

01273 612025; Freedom Coordinator 07505 426 118