Child Sexual Exploitation


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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 kind of exploitation.

There are children who may be deemed more at risk due to circumstances i.e.:

  • A history of abuse, neglect and/or disadvantage
  • Being looked after, or formerly looked after
  • Disrupted family life, including family breakdown, domestic violence and/or problematic parenting
  • Disengagement from education and isolation from other support mechanisms
  • Going missing from home or care environments
  • Drug and alcohol misuse
  • Homelessness
  • Poor health and wellbeing, social isolation, bullying or low self-esteem


What are the signs

The following are indicators of CSE, this list is not exhaustive but might help with spotting the signs of a victim:

  • Staying out late or episodes of being missing overnight or longer
  • Multiple callers (unknown adults/older young people)
  • Evidence of/ suspicion of physical or sexual assault disclosure of assault followed by withdrawal of a reported incident
  • Unplanned pregnancy and/or Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
  • Peers involved in sexual exploitation
  • Drugs/alcohol misuse
  • Isolation from peers/social networks
  • 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
  • Frequenting areas known for adult prostitution
  • Children under 13 years asking for sexual health advice
  • Concerning use of the internet/mobile phone

For more information on spotting the signs visit


Got info – report it

If you are a child or young person call Childline on 0800 1111.

  • Crimestoppers: call 0800 555 111.
  • Police Scotland: call 101 (or in an emergency 999).
  • ParentLine Scotland: call 0800 028 2233 or email: ParentLine's opening hours are from 9am-10pm (Mon-Fri) and 12 noon-8pm at weekends.
  • NSPCC: If you are an adult and worried about a child you can call the 24 hour NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.


Perpetrators - We're on to you

Police Scotland has a specialist unit, the National Child Abuse Investigation Unit (NCAIU), to support the investigation of complex child abuse and neglect across Scotland. Find out more about the NCAIU.

Police Scotland’s first national operation to tackle online child sexual abuse has resulted in the identification of more than 500 children, aged between 3 and 18 years, who were either victims or potential victims of online predators, as well as the recovery of 30 million images of abuse.

It has resulted, to date, in 77 people being arrested and charged; the recovery of more than 30 million sexual images; the assessment of over 100,000 chat logs; and more than 390 charges libeled, including: rape; sharing indecent images of children; grooming for sexual purposes; sexual extortion; indecent communication with children; possession of a firearm; bestiality; and drugs offences. Read more about Operation Latisse.

Police Scotland works to secure convictions with partner agencies across the UK. Read more about Operation Hydrant child sex abuse investigations.


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