Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation

To be read in conjunction with:

Child sexual exploitation Definition and a guide for practitioners, local leaders and decision makers working to protect children from child sexual exploitation 2017

Working Together to Safeguard Children 2015


  1. Introduction
  2. Aims
  3. Definitions
  4. Types of Child Sexual Exploitation
  5. Principles
  6. Identifying and Challenging CSE
  7. The Child
  8. Preventing Sexual Exploitation
  9. Managing Individual Cases
  10. BFSWS Referrals
  11. Identifying and Prosecuting Perpetrators
  12. Social Media
  13. Appendices:
    1. Risk assessment Framework for children abused through Sexual Exploitation
    2. Methods of coercing victims
    3. Victims
    4. Monitoring concerns of CSE
    5. Prevention Strategies
    6. Intervention Strategies
    7. Investigation Strategies



 This document sets out the procedures for safeguarding and protecting the welfare of children from Child Sexual Exploitation.  It outlines how agencies assess, challenge and provide an enhanced, effective service to reduce the harm and threats posed to children and young people from Child Sexual Exploitation.



  • To identify children at risk of being sexually exploited.
  • To work collaboratively to ensure the children and young people at risk of being sexually exploited are safeguarded.
  • To provide timely and effective interventions with children and families to safeguard those vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
  • To apply pro-active problem solving to address the risks associated with victims, perpetrators and locations and ensure the safeguarding and welfare of children and young people who are, or may be, at risk from sexual exploitation.
  • To take action against those intent on abusing and exploiting children and young people by prosecuting and disrupting perpetrators.
  • To raise awareness and provide preventative education for the welfare of children and young people who are, or may be, sexually exploited.


In support of these aims, on 3rd March 2015, the Prime Minister announced new measures to tackle child sexual exploitation.  This included prioritising child sexual abuse as a national threat.



Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)

This guidance uses the nationally agreed definition of CSE:


Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. It occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator. The victim may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.


Child Sexual Exploitation can occur through the use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition; for example being persuaded to post sexual images on the internet/mobile phones without immediate payment or gain. 

Violence, coercion and intimidation are common. Involvement in exploitative relationships is characterised by the child’s or young person’s limited availability of choice resulting from their social, economic or emotional vulnerability.

A common feature of CSE is that the child or young person does not recognise the coercive nature of the relationship and does not see themselves as a victim of exploitation.


Gangs and Groups

The Office of the Children’s Commissioner has defined CSE in gangs and groups in its 2013 report.

This includes:

Gangs– mainly comprising men and boys aged 13-25 years old, who take part in many forms of criminal activity (e.g. knife crime or robbery) who can engage in violence against other gangs, and who have identifiable markers, for example a territory, a name, or sometimes clothing.

Groups– involves people who come together in person or online for the purpose of setting up, co-ordinating and/or taking part in the sexual exploitation of children in either an organised or opportunistic way.


Gang Associate

An individual can be gang associated for one or more of the following reasons.  They:

  • Offend with or for gang members, either willingly or through coercion or exploitation but do not identify themselves as a gang member and there is no other corroborative information that they are a gang member.
  • Associate with gang members.  This is known by police, partner agencies and/or community intelligence.
  • Have shown, through their conduct or behaviour, a specific desire or intent to become a member of a gang.
  • They are a family member, friend or are otherwise connected to a gang member, but are not a gang member themselves.


Young people associated with a gang are at risk of being sexually exploited by that gang. Sexual violence may result because rape and sexual assault is carried out as part of a conflict between rival gangs, for example the sister of a gang member may be raped as a way of attacking her brother by proxy.  Sexual violence may be used as a form of punishment to fellow gang members and/or a means of gaining status within the hierarchy of the gang.


4.Types of Child Sexual Exploitation^

The act of CSE is generally a hidden activity and is much more likely to occur in private dwellings than in public venues.  However, the act or method of coercion by the perpetrator(s) can take place on the streets.

The following examples describe the different types of exploitation offender’s use and how children can be coerced:


Boyfriend Model

Here the offender befriends and grooms a young person into a ‘relationship’ and then coerces or forces them to have sex with friends or associates.  The boyfriend may be significantly older than the victim, but not always.


Peer on Peer Exploitation

Young people can be sexually exploited by people of a similar age as well as adults.  Research is increasingly demonstrating that a significant number of sexually exploited young people have been abused by their peers and a London Councils report in 2014 found that peer-on-peer exploitation was the most frequently identified form of child sexual exploitation in London. Young people can be exploited by their peers in a number of ways.  In some cases both young women and young men, who have been exploited themselves by adults or peers, will recruit other young people to be abused. In other instances, sexual bullying in schools and other social settings can result in the sexual exploitation of young people by their peers.  Sexual exploitation also occurs within and between street gangs, where sex is used in exchange for safety, protection, drugs and simply belonging.  For 16 and 17 year olds who are in abusive relationships, what may appear to be a case of domestic violence may also involve sexual exploitation.  In all cases of peer-on-peer exploitation, a power imbalance will still inform the relationship, but this inequality will not necessarily be the result of an age gap between the abuser and the abused.


Organised/Networked sexual exploitation or trafficking

Young people (often connected) are passed through networks, possibly over geographical distances, between towns and cities where they may be forced/coerced into sexual activity with multiple men.  Often this occurs at ‘parties’ and young people who are involved may recruit others into the network.  Some of this activity is described as serious organised crime and can involve the organised ‘buying and selling’ of young people by offenders.  Organised exploitation varies from spontaneous networking between groups of offenders, to more serious organised crime where young people are effectively ‘sold’.

Children are known to be trafficked for sexual exploitation and this can occur anywhere within the UK, across local authority boundaries and across international borders.


Inappropriate relationships

These usually involve one offender who has inappropriate power or control over a young person (physical, emotional or financial).  One indicator may be a significant age gap.  The young person may believe they are in a loving relationship.



Young people can be individually exploited, or it may also involve other family members.  The motivation is often financial and can involve substance use.  Parents or family members control and facilitate the exploitation.



This may occur quickly and without any form of grooming. Typically older males identify vulnerable young people who may already have a history of being groomed or sexually abused.  The perpetrator will offer a young person a ‘reward’ or payment in exchange for sexual acts.  The perpetrator is often linked with a network of abusive adults.


On-Line CSE

New technologies and social networking tools and platforms, chat rooms, dating sites or online gaming, present further opportunities for social interaction.  They also bring new risks and increase the opportunity for offenders to target vulnerable young people.  Offenders access social media platforms, for example, Facebook, Blackberry messaging (BBM) and Twitter to identify young people whom they can groom.

Technology can facilitate sexual exploitation of children.  Where abusive images have been posted on, or shared via, the internet, there is little control over who can access them.  This can lead to repeat victimisation

CSE can occur through the use of technology without the child realising it.  For example, a child or young person is persuaded to post images of themselves on the internet and/or mobile phones.  In some cases, the images are subsequently used as a bargaining tool by the perpetrators and threats of violence and intimidation are used as methods of coercion.


Offenders may use technology to exploit children and young people in the following ways:

  • Harassment and bullying through text messaging.
  • Purchasing mobile phones for victims and sharing their numbers among group or gang members.
  • Randomly contacting children via social networking sites.
  • Using ‘friends’ lists on networking sites of known victims to target children and young people.
  • Viewing extreme or violent pornography and discussing it during sexual assaults.
  • Posting images of victims with rival gang members to invite a sexual assault as punishment.
  • Filming and distributing incidents of rape and sexual violence.
  • Distributing lists of children for the purpose of sexual exploitation.


The Child Exploitation On-line Protection (CEOP) Thinkuknow website provides information for children and young people on how they can protect themselves online.  Parents, carers and teachers can also use the website to understand how they can help to protect children in their care while they are using the internet.



The principles underpinning a multi-agency response to the sexual exploitation of children and young people include:

  • Sexually exploited children should be treated as victims of abuse, not as offenders. Authorities have previously referred to child victims as ‘promiscuous’ or ‘prostitutes’.
  • Sexual exploitation includes sexual, physical and emotional abuse and in some cases, neglect.
  • Children do not make informed choices to enter or remain in sexual exploitation, but do so from coercion, enticement, manipulation or desperation.
  • Young people who are at risk of being sexually exploited will have varying levels of needs.  They may have multiple vulnerabilities and therefore an appropriate multi-agency response and good coordination is essential.
  • Law enforcement must direct resources against the coercers and sex abusers, who are often adults, but could also be the child’s peers.  However, it’s recognising that these peers may also be victims themselves.
  • Sexually exploited children are children in need of services provided for under the Children Act 1989 and 2004.  They are also children in need of immediate protection.  In BFG, action can be taken to protect children under Part 3 of the Armed Forces Act 1991.
  • A multi-agency network or planning meeting/discussion should take place for all children considered at risk of sexual exploitation.  Child Protection Procedures should always be followed as appropriate in relation to the risk assessment.


6.Identifying and Challenging CSE^

Multi agency partners come together from the statutory, voluntary, community and faith sectors.  They should follow recognised principles to safeguard and protect the welfare of children and young people.


The government guidance requires agencies to work together to:

  1. Develop local prevention strategies;
  2. Identify those at risk of sexual exploitation
  3. Take action to safeguard and promote the welfare of particular children and young people who may be sexually exploited: and
  4. Take action against those intent on abusing and exploiting children and young people in this way.


In doing so, the key principles should be:

  1. A child-centred approach.  Action should be focussed on the child’s needs, including consideration of children with particular needs or sensitivities, and the fact that children do not always acknowledge what may be an exploitative or abusive situation.
  2. A proactive approach.  This should be focussed on prevention, early identification and intervention as well as disrupting activity and prosecuting perpetrators.
  3. Parenting, family life, and services.  Taking account of family circumstances in deciding how best to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people.
  4. The rights of children and young people.  Children and young people are entitled to be safeguarded from sexual exploitation just as agencies have duties in respect of safeguarding and promoting welfare.
  5. Responsibility for criminal acts.  Sexual exploitation of children and young people should not be regarded as criminal behaviour on the part of the child or young person, but as child sexual abuse.  The responsibility for the sexual exploitation of children lies with the abuser and the focus of police investigations should be on those who coerce, exploit and abuse children and young people.
  6. An integrated approach.  Working Together to Safeguard Children sets out a tiered approach to safeguarding: universal, targeted and responsive.  Within this, sexual exploitation requires a three-pronged approach tackling prevention, protection and prosecution
  7. A shared responsibility.  The need for effective joint working between different agencies and professionals underpinned by a strong commitment from managers, a shared understanding of the problem of sexual exploitation and effective coordination by the Local Safeguarding Children Board.


7.The Child^

Any child or young person may be at risk of sexual exploitation, regardless of their family background or other circumstances.

Sexual exploitation results in children and young people suffering harm, and causes significant damage to their physical and mental health.  It can also have profound and damaging consequences for the child’s family.  Parents and carers are often traumatised and under severe stress.  Siblings can feel alienated and their self-esteem affected.  Family members can themselves suffer serious threats of abuse, intimidation and assault at the hands of perpetrators.

There are strong links between children involved in sexual exploitation and other behaviours such as running away from home or care, bullying, self-harm, teenage pregnancy, truancy and substance misuse.  In addition, some children are particularly vulnerable, for example, children with special needs, those in residential or foster care, those leaving care, migrant children, unaccompanied asylum seeking children, victims of forced marriage and those involved in gangs.

The majority of sexually exploited children are hidden from public view.  They are unlikely to be loitering or soliciting on the streets.  Research and practice has helped to move the understanding away from a narrow view of seeing sexual exploitation as a young person standing on a street corner selling sex.

There is also often a presumption that children are sexually exploited by people they do not know.  However evidence shows that this is often not the case and children are often sexually exploited by people with whom they feel they have a relationship, e.g. a boyfriend/girlfriend,

Children are often persuaded that the boyfriend/girlfriend is their only true form of support and encouraged to withdraw from their friends and family and to place their trust only within the relationship. 

Due to the nature of the grooming methods used by their abusers, it is very common for children and young people who are sexually exploited not to recognise that they are being abused.  Practitioners should be aware that particularly young people aged 16 and 17 may believe themselves to be acting voluntarily and will need practitioners to work with them so they can recognise that they are being sexually exploited.


8.Preventing Sexual Exploitation^

The effects of sexual exploitation are harmful and far reaching and Chapter 5 of the Government Guidance looks at measures that may assist a local prevention strategy.


Prevention means that the risk that children and young people will become victims of sexual exploitation is reduced by:

  1. Reducing their vulnerability
  2. Improving their resilience
  3. Disrupting and preventing the activities of perpetrators
  4. Reducing tolerance of exploitative behaviour
  5. Prosecuting abusers

Prevention measures will include the development of education and awareness raising programmes for children and young people so that they can make safe and healthy choices about relationships and sexual health, as well as for parents and carers (particularly those responsible for children living away from home) and people whose work places them in a position where they would notice and could report worrying behaviours (e.g. shopkeepers, park attendants and hostel managers) who are not traditionally regarded as part of the safeguarding community.


9.Managing Individual Cases^

Identification of Risk and Possible Indicators

Anyone who has regular contact with children is in a good position to notice changes in behaviour and physical signs that may indicate involvement in sexual exploitation. 

They should also know how to monitor online spaces and be prepared to request access reports where they are suspicious that a child is being groomed online.

The fact that a young person is 16 or 17 years old should not be taken as a sign they are no longer at risk of sexual exploitation.

The factors below are recognised as factors linked to sexual exploitation.  It is not an exhaustive list and each indicator is not in itself proof of involvement. Concerns should increase the more indicators that are present.  They are:

  1. Health – physical symptoms e.g. bruising, chronic fatigue, recurring or multiple sexually transmitted diseases; pregnancy and/or seeking an abortion; evidence of drug, alcohol or substance misuse; sexually risky behaviour
  2. Education – truancy; disengagement with education; considerable change in performance at school
  3. Emotional and behavioural development – volatile behaviour exhibiting extreme array of mood swings or use of abusive language; involvement in petty crime; secretive behaviour; entering or leaving vehicles driven by unknown adults
  4. Identity – low self-image; low self-esteem; self-harm; eating disorder; promiscuity
  5. Family and social relationships – hostility in relationship with parents, carers and/or other family members; physical aggressions towards parents, siblings, pets, teachers or peers; placement breakdown; detachment from age appropriate activities; association with other young people who are known to be sexually exploited; sexual relationship with a significantly older person; unexplained relationships with older adults (e.g. through letters, texts, internet links); staying out overnight or returning late with no plausible explanation; persistently missing or missing with no known home base; returning after having been missing looking well cared for with no known home base; going missing and being found in an area where the child has no known links
  6. Social presentation – change in appearance; leaving home in clothing unusual for the child e.g. inappropriate for age
  7. Parental capacity – family history of parental neglect or abuse
  8. Family and environmental factors – family history of domestic violence; pattern of homelessness
  9. Income - possession of large amounts of money with no plausible explanation; acquisition of expensive clothes, mobile phones or other possessions without plausible explanation; accounts of social activities with no plausible explanation of the source of necessary funding
  10. Family’s social integration – reports that the child has been seen in places known to be used for sexual exploitation


Possible indicators specific to boys and young men are:

  1. Health – physical symptoms (e.g. bruising or sexually transmitted infections); drug or alcohol misuse; self-harm or eating disorders
  2. Education – truancy, deterioration of school work or part-time timetable
  3. Emotional and behavioural development – secretive e.g. about internet use; anti-social behaviour; sexualised language; sexually offending behaviour
  4. Family and social relationships – associating with other children and young people at risk of sexual exploitation; missing from home or staying out late; getting into cars of unknown people; contact with adults outside normal social group
  5. Identity – low self-esteem, poor self-image or lack of confidence
  6. Social presentation – wearing an unusual amount of clothing
  7. Income – social activities with no explanation of how funded; possession of abnormal amounts of money, gifts, new mobile phones, credit on mobile phone, number of SIM cards
  8. Social integration – frequenting known high-risk areas or going to addresses of concern; seen at public toilets known for cottaging; seen at adult venues


A Risk Assessment (see Appendix i) should be completed detailing the above factors for any child or young person where there are concerns that a child is at risk of sexual exploitation. Additional factors apply in relation to boys and young men.

The completed form must be attached to a referral to any other agency.

Concerns that a child may be at risk of sexual exploitation should be discussed with a manager and/or designated professional for safeguarding and a decision made as to whether there should be a referral to BFSWS.

The wishes and feelings of the child or young person should be obtained when deciding how to proceed but practitioners should be aware that perpetrators may have groomed the child’s responses and that the child may be denying what is happening.

Where an agency is fearful of losing the engagement of a child or young person by reporting their concern to Children’s Social Care, the agency should discuss this with BFSWS to agree a way forward.  Any decision not to share information or refer a child should be fully recorded.


10.BFSWS Referrals^

Professionals who refer to BFSWS by telephone must submit their referral in writing within 48 hours in accordance with local referral procedures.

BFSWS must decide and record their proposed action in line with their local procedures normally within 24 hours.  This decision should normally follow discussion with the referrer and other involved professionals, as well as the consideration of any background information already held by BFSWS.

BFSWS will inform SO1 Safeguarding of the referral and agree the proposed action.

BFSWS will need to consider whether it is appropriate to make a referral to the Jugendamt, dependent upon the individual circumstances of the child/ren of concern.  It is worth noting that the age of consent for children in Germany is 14 and therefore this guidance may not be consistent with German guidance and law.

Where BFSWS decide to take no further action, this decision must be recorded and the referrer must be informed. BFSWS may decide with the referrer, that whilst there is no evidence of sexual exploitation, the child may still appear vulnerable and that an assessment under the Early Help Framework should be undertaken by the involved agencies, if one has not already been undertaken.

The possible outcomes of the referral could be:

  1. That the child appears to be a Child in Need and there are concerns about the child's health or development or any actual or potential harm which justify an Initial Assessment (where the criteria for undertaking an enquiry analogous to a Section 47 Enquiry is met) and/or
  2. That emergency protective action should be taken to safeguard the child/ren (this will usually be determined by immediate strategy discussions) or where the child is already known and new information suggests the child is or may be suffering significant harm, a Section 47 type enquiry and/or a new or updated Assessment is required or
  3. A referral to another agency and/or provision of advice and information and/or a CAF assessment be undertaken by a relevant agency, with no further action required by BFSWS
  4. BFSWS will inform the SO1 Safeguarding lead of the referral outcome.  SO1 Safeguarding must be informed of the outcome of the S47 type enquiry and the Assessment.

In respect of outcomes listed under Point 2 and 3 above, a child in need meeting should be convened by BFSWS at the end of the Section 47 type enquires and the Assessment, to agree what actions should be undertaken, by whom and what outcomes are required for the child's health and development.  This will include, whether a plan for ensuring the child's future safety should be developed and implemented and whether services should be provided.


Immediate Protection

Where immediate action to safeguard a child is required, it may involve removing the child from the home of a person who is exploiting them to a safe place.  Alternatively, arrangements may be made for the alleged perpetrator  to be housed outside the home.  However, those working with children in these circumstances must never underestimate the power of perpetrators to find where the child is.

Such children will need placements with carers who have experience of building trusting relationships and skills at containing young people.


Intervention and Support

Agencies should recognise that there may be a strong relationship between the child and the coercer/abuser and it may be difficult for the child to break this relationship.

A strategy should therefore be developed, with wherever possible the child and family, to address the child’s needs and help him or her to move on from the exploitative situation. It could include specialist therapeutic support, mentoring to assist a return to education or employment, outreach work, help to secure appropriate health services, and assistance to develop a positive network of friends and relatives.

The particular circumstances of the child should of course be taken into account in developing the multi-agency response and the plan for services should be tailored to meet their specific needs, e.g. whether they are Looked After and/or preparing to leave care, not receiving a suitable education, often missing from home or care, may have been trafficked and/or may be affected by gang activity.

Parents should be engaged in this process unless they are implicated in the sexual exploitation.


11.Identifying and Prosecuting Perpetrators^

Identifying, disrupting and prosecuting perpetrators is a key part of work to safeguard and promote the welfare of children and young people from sexual exploitation.


While the police and criminal justice agencies lead on this, the support of all partners in gathering and recording information/evidence is vital.  All those involved in caring for a child who is suspected to be at risk of sexual exploitation should continually gather, record and share information, as appropriate, to this end.  Parents and carers should be encouraged and supported to do so, ensuring that information is recorded in such a way that it can be used by the Service Prosecution Authority (SPA) or the German Civil Police (GCP) or the equivalent German Police Authority.

The information report should be completed by all agencies to record and forward information re a child who is believed to be being sexually exploited to the police for recording and further research.

Where a young person wants and is able to be part of a prosecution, it is essential that they are supported through this process and after the prosecution has taken place.  Many of the issues facing young victims and witnesses are addressed in a CPS 2006 Policy document on prosecuting cases involving children and young people as victims and witnesses.

The Police National Database (PND) is a police-led information management system. It enables an investigator in one police force to identify which other police force holds relevant information on a given individual and is available to assist in the protection of children and young people from sexual exploitation.

Intelligence and information should be shared with partners in accordance with the requirements of the Code of Practice on the Management of Police Information 2005, the National Intelligence Model and Data Protection Act 1998

Again consideration should be given for the need to refer to the GCP should this be deemed necessary.


12.Social Media

The use of media and technology is now a common feature of the social activity of most young people.  Smart phones, laptops and IPods are used to exchange information verbally, by text, e mail and most commonly through social networking sites such as Facebook.


Social media presents considerable opportunities to abusers and provides powerful tools with which to groom and control victims.  Grooming is defined as developing the trust of a young person or his or her family in order to engage in illegal sexual conduct.  It may include:

  1. Causing a child to watch a sexual act, e.g. sending sexually themed adult content or images and videos featuring child sexual abuse to a young person;
  2. Inciting a child to perform a sexual act, e.g. by threatening to show sexual images of a child to their peers or parents (e.g. self-produced material or even a pseudo-image of the child);
  3. Suspicious online contact with a child, e.g. asking a young user sexual questions;
  4. Asking a child to meet in person; befriending a child and gaining their trust, etc.
  5. Other grooming: the range in behaviours that fall into this category are widely variable but reflect the range of strategies often employed by adults to prepare a child for abuse, e.g. using schools or hobby sites such as the Scouts or Girl Guides to gather information about particular children, their location and future events where the child may be present; presenting as a minor online to deceive a child, etc.

There a number of cases in some areas where young people have been entrapped by adults posing as teenagers to obtain sexually explicit images via web cams or making arrangements to meet the victim. Often these individuals live some considerable distance from the victim and initially make contact through legitimate sites used by young people.


Local experience has also shown that Facebook is increasingly the chosen medium of communication between victim and abuser, assisted by the fact that access cannot be obtained by police or other agencies to information hidden behind ‘white walls’ where the child’s permission is required to enter the site.


However, telephone and internet communication can provide excellent evidence against abusers and can assist in identifying perpetrators and unknown victims and is useful in identifying networks.  It is vital that those having care of children at risk of CSE gather as much information as possible re mobile numbers, text communications and Facebook contacts and forward it to police to assist them in collating this evidence.


There are appendices at the end of this document which help to guide professionals in identifying individuals at risk on child sexual exploitation. Also included is a range of information for professionals to assist them in their work with children and parents. These include prevention, intervention, disruption, intervention and investigation strategies.



Appendix i

Risk Assessment Framework for Children Abused through Sexual Exploitation


1 risk factor – Response at Early Help level may be adequate.  If there is more than one risk factor, then consideration to contact BFSWS for consultation or referral to be made to BFSWS with parental consent.  

If in doubt gain consultation with BFSWS!

Regularly coming home late or going missing
Overt sexualised dress
Sexualised risk-taking including on internet
Unaccounted for monies or goods
Associating with unknown adults
Association with other young people at risk of CSE or who are being sexually exploited
Reduced contact with family and friends and other support networks
Sexually transmitted infections
Experimenting with drugs and/or alcohol
Poor self-image
Eating disorders
Superficial self harm


1 risk factor or more - referral to be made to BFSWS for consideration of CiN or CP procedures.  Parental consent to be gained unless to do so may put the child at further risk.

If in doubt gain consultation with BFSWS !

Getting into cars with unknown adults
Associating with known CSE adults
Being groomed on the internet
Clipping i.e. offering to have sex for money or other payment and then running before sex takes place
Disclosure of a physical assault with no substantiating evidence to warrant a s47 enquiry, then refusing to make or withdrawing a complaint
Being involved in CSE through being seen in hotspots i.e. known houses or recruiting grounds
Having an older boyfriend/girlfriend
Non school attendance or excluded (repeated)
Staying out overnight with no explanation (missing/absent)
Breakdown of residential placements due to behaviour
Unaccounted for money or goods including mobile phones, drugs and alcohol
Multiple sexually transmitted infections
Self-harming that requires medical treatment
Repeat offending
Gang member or association with gangs


1 risk factor or more - referral to BFSWS and or police for consideration of CiN / CP procedures /criminal offences.  Parental consent to be gained unless to do so would put the child at further risk.

If in doubt gain consultation with BFSWS

Child under 13 involved or coerced into sexual activity
Inciting a child under 16 to engage in sexual activity
Pattern of street homelessness and staying with an adult believed to be sexually exploiting them
Child under 16 meeting different adults and exchanging or selling sexual activity for goods or a roof overnight (constrained choices)
Peer on peer abuse (children who pose a risk to others) or receiving rewards for recruiting
Being taken to licensed premises i.e. clubs and hotels by adults, pubs by adults as part of grooming or sexual activity
Disclosure of serious sexual assault (with statement or withdrawal of statement)
Abduction and forced imprisonment
Disappearing from the 'system' with no contact or support
Being bought/sold/ trafficked
Multiple miscarriages or terminations
Indicators of CSE alongside serious self-harming

Appendix ii Methods of coercing victims^

The vulnerability of many victims makes them particularly susceptible to the grooming tactics used by offenders.  Most victims are groomed to a certain extent by their exploiter, who will use various persuasive methods to control them and keep them in exploitative situations.  This may include encouraging the victim to play a participatory role in the production of indecent images and/or to recruit other victims to participate in the activity.

Offenders exploit their victims further by creating or exacerbating vulnerabilities they have in order to retain control over them.  Vulnerabilities include disengagement from friends and family, detachment from services and challenging or criminal behaviour.

The following methods can also be used to coerce a victim:

  • Presents – especially in the grooming phase.
  • Food treats.
  • Rewards, mobile phone top-ups.
  • Giving the child or young person attention (listening to them or showing an interest in them or what they are doing).
  • False promises of love and/or affection.
  • False promises of opportunities, e.g. modelling, photography, acting.
  • Alcohol.
  • Drugs – either supply or paying off drug debt.
  • Paying off debt.
  • Mental manipulation.
  • Blackmail.
  • Fear.
  • Physical violence.


This is not an exhaustive list and not all the methods listed will be used, or occur in the order above.


Appendix iii Victims^

Male and female victims of sexual exploitation may not disclose their exploitation voluntarily. A number of factors (see risk factors) may account for this, including:

  • Fear of their exploiters.
  • Fear their sexuality will be questioned.
  • Loyalty they have to their exploiters.
  • Failing to perceive themselves as a victim of exploitation (owing to the methods of coercion/grooming the offender(s) uses).
  • Believe they are in a consensual relationship and sexual activity is a normal part of the relationship.
  • Unable to express the exploitation/abuse.
  • Believe they have acted voluntarily.
  • Negative perceptions or fears that they have about authorities.
  • Not aware of the help that is available to them.
  • Fear of not being believed.
  • Ashamed or embarrassed about what is happening or what has happened to them.
  • Fear of bringing shame to their family because of cultural/religious beliefs.


A perception that a young person is troublesome, rather than troubled, can affect their credibility and influence whether that individual seeks help.  It can also make them fiercely resistant to offers of support.  In such cases investigators should consider how they can overcome issues of credibility (see CPS (2013) Guidelines on Prosecuting Cases of Child Sexual Abuse).  Rejecting help is more likely if the young person feels that they have been let down in the past by those who should have been protecting them.


Boys and young men

The risk of boys and young men becoming victims of sexual exploitation by both male and female offenders is underestimated and less well understood than those relating to girls and young women.  Boys and young men also face additional barriers to disclosing.  These barriers include:

  • Fear of experiencing homophobia.
  • Fear their sexuality/masculinity will be questioned.
  • Fear they will not be believed.
  • Not perceiving themselves as a victim because their abuser is female.


Appendix iv Monitoring concerns of CSE^

Where a risk of CSE has been identified or suspected, the following may assist the parent / carer in pro-actively collating intelligence, information and evidence to prosecute or disrupt perpetrators:

  • Ensure mobile phones are subject to a contract and not “Pay as You Go”. Obtain itemised statements.
  • Log registration numbers of vehicles used to collect children or young person.
  • Obtain details of names and phone numbers of suspected abusers from mobile phones and SIM cards.
  • Note whether unaccounted goods enter the home.
  • Check bins for receipts of goods which may identify bank card details of perspective perpetrators.
  • Maintain details of social sites used.
  • Keep records of friends / people visiting home address.


Appendix v Prevention Strategies^


The majority of CSE offenders are male and their ages can range from school age (e.g. peer-on-peer or gang-related abuse) to the elderly. However, women and victims of CSE can be groomed to recruit and coerce other victims into CSE.

The demographic of offenders varies in terms of ethnicity, social background and age.

In comparison with what is known about types of CSE, far less is known about the characteristics of CSE offenders.  The Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s 2013 report acknowledges that agencies rarely record data about perpetrators of CSE, and the information they do record is often incomplete or inconsistent.

It is difficult for agencies to develop a profile of this type of offender and for victims to identify them.  For example, if young people are sexually exploited via social media tools, the true identity of the offender may be hidden and it may not be apparent to the victim that there is more than one offender.  Offenders may also use aliases or nicknames to conceal their identity.

A victim’s ability to identify an offender may be impaired by drugs and alcohol given to them during the commission of the offence.

Police officers should be aware that the offender may be a member of the victim’s family.  The family home is not, therefore, always a place of safety for the victim.  Officers should ensure that children are returned home only where it is safe to do so.  Where there are concerns about the involvement of, or repercussions from family members, children should be spoken to privately.

Offenders groom victims in order to manipulate them.  This includes distancing them from friends and family to control them.  The power and control exerted by the offender is designed to increase the dependence of the victim as the exploitative relationship develops. Offenders often use flattery and attention to persuade victims to view them as a ‘boyfriend’.

Some offenders get satisfaction from exerting control over victims through coercive and manipulative behaviour.  It is believed that this is done not only to commit offences, but also as an end in itself. In this respect, the psychological profile of this type of offender appears to resemble that of a domestic violence offender.


Identifying and managing geographic hotspots and venues

General awareness of CSE amongst key groups of professionals and community organisations is a critical protective factor for children and families.  Mapping of potential access points to vulnerable children and young people will assist in targeting those areas where perpetrators prey on children.  Police should lead on this but information and intelligence from all agencies will be used to map the ‘hotspots’.  These areas may include; hostels, care homes, youth clubs, schools, taxi ranks, local food outlets etc


Appendix vi Intervention Strategies^

The following is a list of intervention strategies for information purposes only.  This should not be viewed as an exhaustive list:

  • Obtain as much information as possible to identify associates and those who pose a risk to children and young people.  Good information includes full names, nick names, telephone numbers, addresses and car registrations etc.
  • Keep accurate records and retain the information on children's personal files; it is important to date and time the information and note who is involved in incidents and any interventions. Clarity must be shown within the record as to fact and professional’s opinion.
  • Consider removing mobile phones at night for the purpose of charging the batteries and monitor internet, call and text use.
  • Secure mobile phones and sim cards, particularly if supplied by abusers and pass to the police.
  • Promote positive relationships with family, friends and carers.
  • Build the young person’s self-esteem.
  • Raise the young person’s awareness of CSE and the dangers of risk taking behaviours.
  • Explore health needs of young person.
  • Involve the young person in diversionary activities.
  • Improve the home environment for the child.
  • Explore the child’s educational needs and circumstances.
  • Plan on positive change for the future and set small targets to achieve monthly.
  • Weekends/school holidays activities or team building exercises through multi agency provision.
  • Arrange work experience opportunities or vocational training.  


Appendix vii Investigation Strategies^

CSE is not a specific criminal offence. It encompasses a range of different forms of serious criminal conduct and a number of individual offences.

In assessing whether a child or young person is a victim, or at risk of becoming a victim, of sexual exploitation, careful consideration should be given to the following:

A child under the age of 13 is not legally capable of consenting to sex (it is statutory rape) or any other type of sexual touching.

Sexual activity with a child under 16 is an offence.

It is an offence for a person to have a sexual relationship with a 16 or 17 year old if they hold a position of trust or authority in relation to them.   

Where sexual activity with a 16 or 17 year old does not result in an offence being committed, it may still result in harm or the likelihood of harm being suffered.

Non-consensual sex is rape, whatever the age of the victim. 

If the victim is incapacitated through drink or drugs, or the victim, or his or her family, has been subjected to violence or the threat of it, they cannot be considered to have given true consent and, therefore, offences may have been committed. 

CSE is an issue for all children under the age of 18 years and not limited to those in a specific age group.