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Child exploitation

Child exploitation is when an abuser takes advantage of a young person for their own personal gain. This can take many forms, including sexual exploitation or forcing the child to commit crime. 

The most common form of criminal exploitation is when a child is forced to sell drugs for an older person. They are often sold a dream of cash, designer goods and a sense of belonging, but the reality is very different. They end up dirty, hungry and risking their life.

Some of this activity takes the form of county lines dealing, which is where people travel from large cities such as London to sell drugs in new areas.

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is where a young person is abused by an older person they may initially see as their boyfriend. Perpetrators regularly buy the child gifts and trick them into believing they are in a loving relationship before abusing them. 

These types of abuse can happen to any child, at anytime, anywhere and is why tackling it remains a high priority for us. We aim to raise awareness of child exploitation by;

  • helping people recognise the signs

  • encourage reporting

  • provide support to victims.

Report child exploitation 

If you think you may be a victim of child exploitation or know someone who is, please call us on 101 or in an emergency always call 999.

If you do not wish to speak to us, or you want more information please visit;

  • NSPCC - for advice on the signs and symptoms of child abuse
  • Childline - to report child abuse
  • Barnardos - to help a child going through abuse.

View information on how UK authorities and agencies work together to safeguard children.

Recognising the signs of child exploitation

Being aware of the signs and symptoms which may indicate child exploitation can include;

  • receiving unexpected gifts or money
  • using their phone secretively
  • having significantly older friends
  • being picked up from school by strangers
  • showing signs of self-harm
  • regularly going missing from school and home.

Whilst each case can vary, there are three common types of child exploitation to be aware of;

  • Inappropriate relationships - usually involves one person having control over a younger person and forcing their behaviour.
  • Boyfriend model - offenders befriend and groom a young person into a relationship and then force them into having sex with them, friends or groups of people.
  • Organised sexual exploitation - young people are forced to have sex with multiple people, often at ‘sex parties’ and are used to recruit other children and young peoples.

Visit the NSPCC website for more information on the signs and symptoms of CSE.

Child grooming

Grooming involves someone befriending a child by gaining their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse, exploitation or trafficking.

Children and young people can be groomed by a stranger or by someone they know and with the increase in the use of social media, it’s becoming easier for offenders to approach and begin talking to young people online.

Signs of child grooming

Many children don’t realise they’re being groomed because the signs aren’t always obvious. Offenders can go to great lengths to remain unidentified, but if you think you see anything suspicious, always get in touch to be on the safe side. 

Visit the Cambridgeshire Local Safeguarding Children’s Boardfor information on recognising the signs and symptoms of a child or young person who may be being groomed for sexual exploitation.  

Video transcript

Tackling child exploitation

Child exploitation and CSE offenders can be brought to justice under regulations within the Sexual Offences Act 2003. More details on CSE legislation, policy and guidance can be found on the NSPCC website.

Child exploitation offenders

Offenders can be anyone from any social or ethnic background, but they all have one thing in common: abusing children and young people and using their status or position to exploit these vulnerable victims.

We are committed to ensuring child exploitation offenders face justice and don't get away with their actions. You can find out if someone has a record of child sexual offences under Sarah's Law.

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