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Child Exploitation

What is it?

Child exploitation (CE) is when a child or young person is tricked or forced into doing something sexual or criminal seemingly in return for things like love, affection, money, drugs or alcohol.

Definition of Child Sexual Exploitation:
Child sexual exploitation 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.

(Department for Education, 2017)

Both grooming and sexual exploitation can happen in real life and online. In fact, online contact often plays a big part in sexual exploitation.


Definition of Criminal Exploitation (also known as ‘county lines’):
County lines is a term used to describe gangs and organised criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs into one or more importing areas within the UK, using dedicated mobile phone lines or other form of “deal line”. They are likely to exploit children and vulnerable adults to move and store the drugs and money and they will often use coercion, intimidation, violence (including sexual violence) and weapons.

(Home Office, 2018)



Spot the signs of Child Exploitation

Sometimes things that seem like normal teenage behaviour could be a sign a young person is being sexually and / or criminally exploited.

It should be noted that child sexual and criminal exploitation can also occur without any risk factors or signs being obviously available.


Signs which may indicate Child Sexual Exploitation Signs which may indicate Criminal Exploitation
Acquisition of money, clothes, mobile phones etc without plausible explanation Persistently going missing from school or home and / or being found out-of-area
Gang-association and/or isolation from peers/social networks Unexplained acquisition of money, clothes, or mobile phones
Exclusion or unexplained absences from school, college or work Excessive receipt of texts / phone calls and/or having multiple handsets
Leaving home/care without explanation and persistently going missing or returning late Relationships with controlling / older individuals or groups
Excessive receipt of texts/phone calls Leaving home / care without explanation
Returning home under the influence of drugs/alcohol Suspicion of physical assault / unexplained injuries
Inappropriate sexualised behaviour for age/sexually transmitted infections Parental concerns
Evidence of/suspicions of physical or sexual assault Carrying weapons
Relationships with controlling or significantly older individuals or groups Significant decline in school results / performance
Multiple callers (unknown adults or peers) Gang association or isolation from peers or social networks
Frequenting areas known for sex work Self-harm or significant changes in emotional well-being
Concerning use of internet or other social media
Increasing secretiveness around behaviours
Self-harm or significant changes in emotional well-being
(Department for Education, 2017) (Home Office, 2018)


Concerned about a young person?

If you are worried about a young person, it is important to talk to someone. Please follow the advice here. This gives you some different options for talking to people, whatever your concern.