Further guidance is available from the Avon and Somerset Police Lighthouse Victim and Witness Care website
Child sexual exploitation is a form of sexual abuse where children are sexually exploited for money, power or status. It can involve violent, humiliating and degrading sexual assaults. In some cases, young people are persuaded or forced into exchanging sexual activity for money, drugs, gifts, affection or status. Consent cannot be given, even where a child may believe they are voluntarily engaging in sexual activity with the person who is exploiting them. Child sexual exploitation doesn’t always involve physical contact and can happen online. A significant number of children who are victims of sexual exploitation go missing from home, care and education at some point.
Child sexual exploitation guidance, tools and advice:
- Sexual Exploitation Strategy
- Sexual Exploitation Practice Guidance
- Guidance for Practitioners working with Sexting incidents
- Healthy relationships (toolkit)
For further information visit Avon and Somerset Police's website: Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)
Spotting the signs of CSE
A video which is aimed at helping health and social care professionals, such as school nurses and community pharmacists, to spot possible signs of child sexual exploitation (CSE) has recently been launched by Health Education England in association with the Department of Health and NHS England. The video presents a series of scenarios involving a young person potentially at risk of exploitation and uses the voice of a real-life survivor who talks about her own personal experiences of a CSE.
Definitions of Child Criminal Exploitation
There is no legal definition of child criminal exploitation (CCE) through organised crime groups in England and Wales.
For Knowsley, the exploitation of children and young people under-18 is defined as that which:
‘involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where young people (or a third person or persons) receive ‘something’ (e.g. food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of them completing a task on behalf of another individual or group of individuals; this is often of a criminal nature. Child criminal exploitation often occurs without the child’s immediate recognition, with the child believing that they are in control of the situation. 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.’
The criminal exploitation of children includes a combination of:
- Pull factors: children performing tasks for others resulting in them gaining accommodation, food, gifts, status or a sense of safety, money or drugs; often the hook is through the perpetrator supplying Class B drugs such as cannabis to the child or young person;
- Push factors: children escaping from situations where their needs are neglected and there is exposure to unsafe individuals, where there is high family conflict or the absence of a primary attachment figure;
- Control: Brain washing, violence and threats of violence by those exploiting the child particularly when the child or young person is identified by the police, they are expected to take full responsibility for the offences for which they are charged – i.e. possession and supply of illegal substances.
The majority of children or young people who enter into exploitation do so willingly however, their involvement is indicative of coercion or desperation rather than choice. Many young people do not recognize that they are being exploited or that they are at risk. The majority of children who are vulnerable to criminal exploitation are male however; the possibilities of female involvement should not be dismissed.
It is important to note that perpetrators of CCE may themselves be children who are criminally exploited and that the victims of CCE may also be at risk of becoming perpetrators.
County Lines is a term used to describe gangs and organised criminal networks involved in exporting illegal drugs into one or more importing areas in the UK, using a dedicated mobile phone line or other form of 'deal line'.
Information on County Lines and Cuckooing is available from:
- Avon and Somerset Police: What is a County Line?
- Home Office Guidance: Criminal Exploitation of children and vulnerable adults: County Lines Guidance