Child Sexual Exploitation

Phone in hand

Are you worried your child might be the victim of child sexual exploitation?

As a parent or carer you are the first line of defence when it comes to tackling child sexual exploitation. You see your child on a day-to-day basis, notice changes in their behaviour, friendships and activities. You can put interventions in place in your home to promote your child's safety.

Child sexual exploitation involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where children/ young people receive ‘something’ (e.g. food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of performing, and/ or others performing on them, sexual activities. Child sexual exploitation can occur through use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition, for example the persuasion to post sexual images on the internet/mobile phones with no immediate payment or gain. In all cases those exploiting the child/ young person have power over them by virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and/ or economic or other resources. Violence, coercion and intimidation are common, involvement in exploitative relationships being characterised in the main by the child or young person's limited availability of choice resulting from their social/economic and/ or emotional vulnerability.

Child sexual exploitation can occur to boys and girls from a very early age and the perpetrators can be adults or peers.  It can involve grooming or be opportunist, all children and young people are vulnerable.

Often the child or young person does not recognise the danger of the relationship and does not see themselves as a victim of exploitation, as they consider they have acted voluntarily. The reality is they have not consented and their behaviour is not voluntary. A child cannot consent to their own abuse. It may be difficult for parents to differentiate between ordinary teenage behaviour and the risk of or involvement in sexual exploitation.

Signs that may signify that children or young people are being groomed for sexual exploitation or actually being sexually exploited:

  • Regularly coming home late or going missing overnight or longer (see 'going missing' information at the end of this page)
  • Change in physical appearance- new clothes, more/less make up, poor self image, weight gain/loss
  • Being defensive about where they have been and what they have been doing
  • Hanging out with groups of older people, or antisocial groups, or with other vulnerable peers
  • Sexualised risk taking including on internet and mobile phone
  • Getting involved in gangs, gang fights, gang membership
  • Having older boyfriends or girlfriends
  • Having marks or scars on their body which they try to conceal by refusing to undress or uncover parts of their body 
  • Expressions of despair (self-harm, overdose, eating disorder, challenging behaviour, aggression, appearing drunk or under the influence of drugs/alcohol, suicidal tendencies, looking tired or ill, sleeping during the day.)

Lambeth LSCB recognises that parents and carers sometimes need advice and support to help keep their children safe from sexual exploitation. If you have concerns about your child you can discuss this with their school, your GP, the police or Lambeth Children’s Social Care by calling the Integrated Referral Hub.

If you are worried about a child, contact the Integrated Referral Hub:

If a child is at immediate risk of significant harm, please dial 999

Get more advice and support around CSE

  • Stop CSE  is a national helpline where you can get support and advice as a parent if you are concerned regarding possible sexual exploitation.
  • PACE:Parents against Sexual Exploitation call 0113 240 5226
  • Victim Support: Can provide parents and young people with direct support
  • NSPCCcall the helpline 0808 800 5000
  • Parent Info: Here you'll find a collection of articles, tips, expert advice and resources designed to help parents keep up with what their children are doing on-line. Schools are welcome to subscribe to a feed for their own websites and use the content as they wish.
  • Guide to keeping children safe
  • Keeping children safe  Find out how you can keep children safe from abuse and other dangers, both online and in the physical world.
  • Sexting: advice for parents How to talk to your child about the risks of sexting – and what you can do to protect them
  • Spot the signs:Barnardo’s advice for parents

Has your child gone missing?

If your child goes missing it can be a very worrying and confusing time for you. Children and young people can be at risk of harm when missing from home or care and you can get help and support to find your child and to keep them safe by

  • reporting it to the police
  • trying to stay in contact with them, let them know they are not in trouble for going missing and you want them back home and safe
  • staying in touch with their friends and share the message that you want your child home and safe

You can get support from Missing People, a charity that specialises in missing children and adults, call Freephone 116 000. For more organisations that provide help and support, please go to the 'Missing from home or care' section on this website.

The NSPCC also provides a free helpline to get advice on 0808 800 5000.