Child sexual exploitation involves situations, contexts or relationships in which a person under 18 is given something, such as food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts or money in return for performing sexual activities or having sexual activities performed on them. It can also involve violence, coercion and intimidation, with threats of physical harm or humiliation.

Common patterns

In all cases of child sexual exploitation (CSE), the person exploiting the child or young person is able to create the impression of authority over them in some form. This could be because of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength or economic situation.

Sexual exploitation of children can start through the use of technology, without them immediately realising. For example, they might be persuaded to post images on the internet or via mobile phone without immediate payment or personal gain.

Violence, coercion and intimidation are common, with a particular vulnerability of the child or young person being used against them. This can make the young person feel as though they have no choice but to continue the relationship.

Warning signs

Signs of a child or young person being in an exploitative relationship can vary. Some examples are:

  • going missing from home or care
  • physical injuries
  • misuse of drugs or alcohol
  • involvement in offending
  • repeat sexually-transmitted infections, pregnancies or terminations
  • absenteeism from school
  • deterioration in physical appearance
  • evidence of online sexual bullying
  • evidence of vulnerability on social networking sites
  • emotional distance from family members
  • receiving gifts from unknown sources
  • recruiting others into exploitative situations
  • poor mental health
  • self-harming
  • thinking about or attempting suicide


If you suspect a person of carrying out child sexual exploitation, or think someone you know has been a victim, or may be soon, visit our How to report possible child abuse page or call our non-emergency number, 101. If you're deaf or hard of hearing, use our textphone service on 18001 101.

If someone is in immediate danger of harm, please call 999 now. If you're deaf or hard of hearing, use our textphone service 18000 or text us on 999 if you’ve pre-registered with the emergencySMS service.

What are we doing about child sexual exploitation

Sexual exploitation of children is not acceptable and Leicestershire Police is committed to helping victims, bringing offenders to justice and preventing children from being sexually abused.

It is a crime that can affect any child, anytime, anywhere - regardless of their social or ethnic background.

Leicestershire Police works closely with partners to combat this horrendous crime. The force has a dedicated team of officers that focus on cases of CSE, working closely with Children’s Social Care and other agencies.

Useful links

Barnardo's

A national charity helping children in poverty, supporting young carers and helping families looking to foster or adopt.

National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC)

A national children's charity, preventing abuse and helping those affected to recover.

Parents Against Child Exploitation (PACE)

The leading national charity working with parents and carers of sexually exploited children.

ECPAT UK

A UK organisation campaigning against child trafficking and exploitation.

Leicester City Council  - 0116 454 1004

Leicestershire County Council - 0116 305 0005

Rutland County Council - 0157 2758 407

Leicester Safeguarding Children Board and Leicestershire and Rutland Safeguarding Children Board

Advice on protecting your child from sexual abuse, keeping your child safe online and parents’ guides to different social media platforms.