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Child Sexual Exploitation

What is child sexual exploitation?

Child sexual exploitation is when children and young people receive something in exchange for sexual activity. It is a form of sexual abuse and can take place through street grooming or online exploitation. Download this useful guide for parents and carers about child sexual exploitation and what you can do to help your child.

Perpetrators of child sexual exploitation can be found in all parts of the country and are not restricted to particular ethnic groups. Sexual exploitation can happen to boys and young men as well as to girls and young women. It can happen to a person of any background, ethnicity, ability, sexuality or age.

Child sexual exploitation can involve (but is not limited to):

  • Seemingly ‘consensual’ relationships where sex is exchanged for attention, affection, accommodation or gifts, including drugs and alcohol
  • Organised networks of perpetrators who may use younger men, women, boys or girls to build relationships and introduce other young people to the network
  • Unwanted pressure from the child’s peers to have sex or sexual bullying by peers, including cyber bullying
  • Threatening behaviour by gangs to coerce young people into sexual activities which is then used against them as a form of extortion and to keep them compliant
  • Grooming through casual social relationships formed at common meeting places or parties where drugs and alcohol are involved
  • Being introduced to perpetrators by children and young people who are themselves victims of sexual exploitation
  • Online grooming; this could involve an adult pretending to be a child and befriending the child through internet chat rooms, social networking sites, email or mobile telephone messaging, and
  • Targeting young people through their parents or carers by providing drugs, alcohol or money to the parents or carers; this can often mean that the perpetrator is trusted and seen as a potential boyfriend or girlfriend by the family.

What are the signs that may indicate a child is being sexually exploited?

Here is a list of things to look out for (this is not a complete list):

  • Going missing for periods of time or regularly coming home late
  • Regularly missing school or not taking part in education
  • Coming home with unexplained gifts or new possessions (often new mobile phones or SIM cards)
  • Socialising with groups of older people, anti-social groups and other vulnerable young people
  • Having older boyfriends or girlfriends
  • Suffering from sexually transmitted infections
  • Displaying inappropriate sexualised behaviour
  • Unexplained mood swings or changes in emotional wellbeing
  • Self-harming or eating disorders
  • Injuries from physical assault, physical restraint or sexual assault, and
  • Drug or alcohol misuse.

What should you do to get help?

Phone 999 if the child is in immediate danger

Contact East Sussex Children’s Social Care

  • Phone 01424 724144 – if the child lives east of the county, including Hastings and Rother
  • Phone 01323 747373 – if the child lives in the west of the county, including Eastbourne, Hailsham and Seaford.

Sussex Police

phone 101 when it is not an emergency

The WiSE Project in East Sussex
The WiSE Project works with and supports young people experiencing or at risk of sexual exploitation in East Sussex. They run awareness raising workshops, group work and give one-to-one support to young people.

Telephone: 07793 325649

Missing People

Missing People have been commissioned to deliver return home interviews for all missing young people in East Sussex (until March 2016). The service also provides longer term one to one support to any young person wishing to engage with a worker.

For any information on this service, or to refer a young person for support, please contact the Senior Service Coordinator Shaun Polley on 07538 650823 or shaun.polley@missingpeople.org.uk or the Local Services Development Manager Erica Thornton on 020 8392 4530 or erica.thornton@missingpeople.org.uk.

ChildLine –
0800 1111

Useful websites

Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP)
CEOP is dedicated to eradicating child sexual exploitation and is part of UK policing.

This website is maintained by CEOP and gives advice to children, young people, parents and teachers on internet safety.

Parents Against Child Sexual Exploitation (Pace)
Pace works with parents to enable them to safeguard and stop their children from being sexually exploited. They offer advice and guidance to professionals on how child sexual exploitation affects the whole family.

NSPCC Protect and Respect Service
Protect and Respect is a service for young people aged 11 to19 years who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation or who have been sexually exploited.

Spot The Signs
Advice from Barnardos’s for parents, professionals and young people on how to recognise the signs of child sexual exploitation and how to keep safe.


If you are concerned about a child in East Sussex call the SPOA (Single Point Of Advice) on 01323 464222

If a child is in immediate danger contact Sussex Police via 999.