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

West Mercia Police and Warwickshire Police are committed to working along with other agencies to safeguard children under-18.

  • We aim when policing child abuse to ensure that the welfare of children is paramount.
  • We investigate all reports of child abuse and neglect and protect the rights of child victims of crime.
  • We seek to take effective action against offenders so that they can be held accountable, through the criminal justice system, while safeguarding the welfare of the child.
  • We adopt a proactive multi-agency approach to preventing and reducing child abuse and neglect and safeguarding children.

Child Protection and investigation of crimes against children is the responsibility of all officers and we have a number of dedicated teams of officers and staff investigating child sexual exploitation.

We also have dedicated teams of detectives working with children's social care to investigate crimes against children within the home.

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.

NWG
Offers support and advice to those working with children and young people under 18 who are affected by child sexual exploitation.

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.

Something's not right
Warwickshire's multi-agency campaign to raise awareness of child sexual exploitation.