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Child Sexual Exploitation

16th March 2017

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a form of sexual abuse that involves the manipulation and/or coercion of young people under the age of 18 into sexual activity.

The National Child Sexual Exploitation Awareness Day takes place on 18th March and aims to highlight the issues surrounding CSE; encouraging everyone to think, spot and speak out against abuse and adopt a zero tolerance to adults developing inappropriate relationships with children or children developing inappropriate relationships with other children.

"Together, we can work to inform, educate and prevent this form of child sexual abuse within the UK"

We were invited to attend a meeting led by Wiltshire Safeguarding Children Board (WSCB) earlier this week to learn more about CSE. Sadly, CSE is happening everywhere - this includes rural counties such as Dorset and Wiltshire, as well as major cities across the UK.

Awareness is key, and here are some key and quite shocking facts:

  • 35% of all sexual crimes recorded in England and Wales in 2012/13 were sexual crimes against children under 16
  • More than 1 in 3 children who experienced sexual abuse by an adult did not tell anyone about it
  • The NSPCC have conducted research that suggested that around 5% of children in the UK suffer sexual abuse at some point during their childhood
  • On average there are 10,000 new victims of child sexual abuse each year in the UK

Research into CSE shows that there is not one type of abuser. Perpetrators can be male or female, from any ethnic background and can be any age. Perpetrators may be involved in CSE for various reasons including:

  • Sexual gain
  • Financial gain
  • Status/ kudos
  • Self-preservation - children who have been abused themselves can 'recruit' younger children into circles of abuse in order to protect themselves from further abuse

Children are exploited and groomed in different ways. One of the key discussions at the meeting involved trying to help healthcare professionals distinguish between standard 'teenage behaviour' and the risk of involvement in exploitation. It can be really difficult to determine if a child is being exploited, but here is a list of possible signs that young people are being groomed or exploited:

  • Change in physical appearance, poor self image, weight gain/loss
  • STIs/ Pregnancy/ multiple terminations
  • Chronic drug/ alcohol use
  • Expressions of despair (including self-harm, overdoses, challenging behaviour, suicidal tendencies, drugs, alcohol abuse)
  • Criminal behaviour
  • Defensive about where they have been/ what they have been doing
  • Concealing marks or scars on their body
  • Sexualised risk taking including 'sexting'
  • Inappropriate use of the internet
  • Absence from school/ lack of engagement in education

As you can see from this list, many teenagers indulge in some of the above behaviour at some point but if you have any concern that a young person is a victim of CSE, there are plenty of places to turn to for advice and both the Police, Safeguarding Teams and the NSPCC will take your concerns seriously.

For more information please visit: or

Our thanks to CSE and Wiltshire Police for helping us to pull together this information and for hosting such an informative event to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation.

By Megan Glynne-Jones, Quality Manager

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