Child sexual exploitation

This section will cover:

What is Child Sexual Exploitation?

What are the signs of Child Sexual Exploitation?

More information

What is Child Sexual Exploitation?

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a form of child sexual abuse. The sexual exploitation of children is child abuse and any child or young person, regardless of gender, ethnicity, family background or sexual orientation, may experience this type of exploitation. For child sexual exploitation a child is defined as under 18.

It involves situations, contexts or relationships in which a young person 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.

Children or young people may be tricked into believing they are in a loving, consensual relationship. They might be invited to parties and given drugs and alcohol.

It can also involve violence, coercion and intimidation, with threats of physical harm resulting in humiliating and degrading sexual assaults by many perpetrators.

Child sexual exploitation is hidden.  Young people often trust their abuser and do not understand that they are being abused and/or exploited. They may depend on their abuser or be too scared to tell anyone what is happening.

Some children and young people are trafficked into or within Scotland for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

There are some children and young people who may be deemed to be more at risk of sexual exploitation due to their circumstances i.e.:

  • A history of abuse, neglect and/or disadvantage
  • Being looked after in Local Authority Care or formerly looked after in Local Authority Care
  • Disrupted family life, including family breakdown, domestic violence and/or problematic parenting
  • Failing to attend school or college
  • Going missing from home or care environments
  • Drug and/or alcohol misuse
  • Homelessness
  • Poor health and wellbeing, social isolation, bullying or low self-esteem.

What are the signs of Child Sexual Exploitation?

Signs of Child Sexual Exploitation can include:

  • Staying out late or going missing overnight or longer
  • Changes in mood, lack of interest in activities and hobbies
  • Unplanned pregnancy and/or Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
  • Being secretive about where they are going
  • Drug and/or alcohol misuse
  • Isolation from peers and/or social groups
  • Exclusion or unexplained absences from school or college 
  • Relationships with controlling adults
  • Entering/leaving vehicles driven by unknown adults
  • Unexplained amounts of money, expensive clothing or other items
  • Concerning use of internet/mobile phone.

Child Sexual Exploitation does not always involve physical contact and can happen online.  Children can become the victims of abuse on the internet through social networking sites and apps such as facebook, snapchat, Instagram and online games. These all can be accessed through tablets, mobile phones and games consoles.  It may involve initial ‘grooming’ online before contact sexual abuse takes place or the abuse or exploitation may all take place online.  

When sexual abuse or exploitation happens online, young people may be persuaded, enticed or forced to:

  • send or post sexually explicit images of themselves
  • take part in sexual activities via a webcam or smart phone
  • have sexual conversations by text or online.

Abusers may threaten to send images, video or copies of conversations to the child or young person's friends and family unless they take part in other sexual activity.  Images or videos may continue to be shared long after the sexual abuse has stopped.

More Information

For further information please click on the link below

How can Children be safe online

Alternatively you can contact:


Children 1st on 0131 446 2300

Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

Childline on 0800 1111

ParentLineScotland on 0800 028 2233

NSPCC 0808 800 5000