Child sexual exploitation

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a type of child abuse.

It happens when a young person is encouraged, or forced, to take part in sexual activity in exchange for something. This might be presents, money, alcohol or emotional attention.

  • It can happen to any child or young person.
  • It might seem like a normal friendship or relationship to begin with.
  • It can happen online or offline, and without the young person being aware of it.

People who commit this crime can be male or female and they normally have an ‘edge’ over the young people they target. They might be older, wealthier, or physically stronger than the child. They may have status that makes them seem cool to others, and might give support and attention that no one else provides. They might listen, offer advice, or give compliments.

There’s no standard profile of an exploiter, and child sexual exploitation can also happen between young people – peer to peer and especially within gangs or social groups. Children and young people may be groomed over time and so not aware that they are a victim. Even if they are, they may think that it’s their fault (Barnardo’s Scotland).

If you believe a child is in immediate danger, call the police on 999.

Anonymously report concerns to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111

Visit CSE the signs for information in Scotland, whether you are a young person, a parent or a worker. The site covers information on warning signs, staying safe and getting further information or help.

Visit Barnardo’s Scotland CSE homepage or NSPCC CSE homepage for comprehensive information about CSE, getting help, advice for workers, research and resources.

See the Child Protection webpages for further child protection information and resources for:

  • Children and young people
  • Parents and carers
  • Members of the public
  • Professionals