Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a type of sexual abuse of children or young people. Commonly, it is when a child or young person is given things like alcohol, drugs, money, gifts or affection in return for performing sexual acts. 

Children, young people or even parents and guardians, may not always realise they are being exploited or abused, and often they are tricked into believing they are in a consensual relationship with an adult.   

On some occasions, children and young people can be threatened with violence or intimidation to force them into sexual acts.

Abusers may also use money to control them and coerce them. 

Anybody can be a perpetrator of CSE, no matter their age, gender or race. Perpetrators can also be family members or people within a close community. 

These ‘relationships’ do not always have to be romantic and sometimes they can be seen as friendship.  

CSE can be an ongoing issue or an isolated incident.  

Types of CSE 

Child abusers find ways of accessing children and young people. Sometimes this is in person, but it can also be online. 

Online CSE is when an abuser tried to build a child's trust or uses threats of violence or blackmail to control them online with the intent of sexually abusing them.  

Online sexual abuse can be: 

  • Asking a child or young person send or post sexually explicit images of themselves 
  • Filming or streaming sexual activities 
  • Having sexual conversations

Once an abuser has images, video or copies of conversations, they might use threats and blackmail to force a young person to take part in other sexual activity.

They may also share the images and videos with others or circulate them online. 

Sexual exploitation can be difficult to spot and sometimes mistaken for "normal" teenage behaviour.

How to report child sex abuse

If you suspect a child or young person is being abused you can help make it stop by making a child protection referral.

Report child abuse