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The sexual exploitation of children is defined as:

‘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.’ Working Together to Safeguard Children.

See also Child Sexual Exploitation: Definition and Guide for Practitioners (DfE 2017). This advice is non-statutory, and has been produced to help practitioners to identify child sexual exploitation and take appropriate action in response. This advice includes the management, disruption and prosecution of perpetrators.


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 can be 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.

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.

Many children and young people are groomed into sexually exploitative relationships but other forms of entry exist. Some young people are engaged in informal economies that incorporate the exchange of sex for rewards such as drugs, alcohol, money or gifts. Others exchange sex for accommodation or money as a result of homelessness and experiences of poverty. Some young people have been bullied, coerced and threatened into sexual activities by peers or gang members, which is then used against them as a form of extortion and to keep them compliant.

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. This is not an issue, which affects only girls and young women, but boys and young men are also exploited. However, they often may experience other barriers to disclosure.

Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. It can take many forms from the seemingly 'consensual' relationship where sex is exchanged for attention, accommodation or gifts, to serious organised crime and child trafficking. (Human trafficking is the movement of a person from one place to another into conditions of exploitation, using deception, coercion, the abuse of power or the abuse of someone's vulnerability).

What marks out exploitation is an imbalance of power within the relationship. The perpetrator always holds some kind of power over the victim, increasing the dependence of the victim as the exploitative relationship develops.

Technology such as mobile phones or social networking sites can play a part in sexual exploitation, for example, through their use to record abuse and share it with other like-minded individuals or as a medium to access children and young people in order to groom them.

Sexual exploitation has strong links with other forms of crime, for example, domestic violence and abuse, online and offline grooming, the distribution of abusive images of children and child trafficking.

The perpetrators of sexual exploitation are often well organised and use sophisticated tactics. They are known to target areas where children and young people gather without much adult supervision, e.g. parks, takeaway outlets or shopping centres or sites on the Internet.

Children and young people may have already been sexually exploited before they are referred to Children's Services; others may become targets of perpetrators whilst living at home or during placements. They are often the focus of perpetrators of sexual abuse due to their vulnerability. All practitioners and foster carers should therefore create an environment which educates children and young people about child sexual exploitation, involving relevant outside agencies where appropriate. They should encourage them to discuss any such concerns with them, or with someone from a specialist child sexual exploitation project, and also feel able to share any such concerns about their friends.


This extract from The Office of the Commissioner for Children (OCC) Inquiry into CSE in Gangs and Groups (Nov 2012) helps to consider issues around consent.

"The law not only sets down 16 as the age of consent, it also applies to whether a person has given their consent to sexual activity, or was able to give their consent, or whether sexual violence and rape in particular took place. In the context of child sexual exploitation, the term 'consent' refers to whether or not a child understands how one gives consent, withdraws consent and what situations (such as intoxication, duress, violence) can compromise the child or young person's ability to consent freely to sexual activity."

Practitioners must also consider other factors which might influence the ability of the person to give consent, e.g. learning disability / mental ill health. Under Jersey Law, a child 12 years and under cannot legally give consent to sexual activity. Sexual intercourse with children under the age of 13 is statutory rape. A child under 18 cannot consent to their own abuse through exploitation.

Please see the Sexual Offences (Jersey) Law 2018 for more information.


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.

Parents, carers and anyone in a position of responsibility with a child should also know how to monitor online activity and be prepared to - monitor computer usage 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.

Young people with a disability may have increased vulnerability as well as young people up to the age of 21 who were looked after for whom the local authority has statutory care leaver responsibility and / or where there may be child in need and/or child protection issues.

Barnardo's 'Puppet on a String' report 2011 sets out three different models of activity in the spectrum of sexual exploitation:

Inappropriate relationships Usually involving one perpetrator 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.

'Boyfriend' model of exploitation and peer exploitation

The perpetrator befriends and grooms a young person into a 'relationship' and then coerces or forces them to have sex with friends or associates.

Peer exploitation is where young people are forced or coerced into sexual activity by peers and associates. Sometimes this can be associated with gang activity, but not always.
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 in 'sex parties', and young people who are involved may be used as agents to 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 perpetrators.

Practitioners should receive training on child sexual exploitation, and therefore be aware of the key indicators of child sexual exploitation. They include:


  • Physical symptoms (bruising suggestive of either physical or sexual assault);
  • Chronic fatigue;
  • Recurring or multiple sexually transmitted infections;
  • Pregnancy and/or seeking an abortion;
  • Evidence of drug, alcohol or other substance misuse;
  • Sexually risky behaviour.


  • Truancy/disengagement with education or considerable change in performance at school.

Emotional and Behavioural Issues

  • Volatile behaviour exhibiting extreme array of mood swings or use of abusive language;
  • Involvement in petty crime such as shoplifting, stealing;
  • Secretive behaviour;
  • Entering or leaving vehicles driven by unknown adults;
  • Reports of being seen in places known to be used for sexual exploitation, including public toilets known for cottaging or adult venues (pubs and clubs).


  • Low self-image, low self-esteem, self-harming behaviour, e.g. cutting, overdosing, eating disorder, promiscuity.


  • Hostility in relationships with staff, family members as appropriate and significant others;
  • Physical aggression;
  • Placement breakdown;
  • Reports from reliable sources (e.g. family, friends or other professionals) suggesting the likelihood of involvement in sexual exploitation;
  • Detachment from age-appropriate activities;
  • Associating with other young people who are known to be sexually exploited;
  • Known to be sexually active;
  • Sexual relationship with a significantly older person, or younger person who is suspected of being abusive;
  • Unexplained relationships with older adults;
  • Possible inappropriate use of the Internet and forming relationships, particularly with adults, via the Internet;
  • Phone calls, text messages or letters from unknown adults;
  • Adults or older youths loitering outside the home;
  • Persistently missing, staying out overnight or returning late with no plausible explanation;
  • Returning after having been missing, looking well cared for in spite of having no known home base;
  • Missing for long periods, with no known home base;
  • Going missing and being found in areas where they have no known links.

Please note: Whilst the focus is often on older men as perpetrators, younger men and women may also be involved and practitioners should be aware of this possibility.

Social Presentation

  • Change in appearance;
  • Going out dressed in clothing unusual for them (inappropriate for age, borrowing clothing from older young people).

Family and Environmental Factors

  • History of physical, sexual, and/or emotional abuse; neglect; domestic violence; parental difficulties.


  • Pattern of previous street homelessness;
  • Having keys to premises other than those known about.


  • 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.

This list is not exhaustive.

Practitioners should be aware that many children and young people who are sexually exploited do not see themselves as victims. In such situations, discussions with them about concerns should be handled with great sensitivity. Seeking prior advice from specialist agencies may be useful. This should not involve disclosing personal, identifiable information at this stage.

In assessing whether a child or young person is a victim of sexual exploitation, or at risk, careful consideration should be given to the issue of consent. It is important to bear in mind that:

  • In Jersey, It is an offence for a man or boy aged over 10 to have sexual intercourse with a young woman aged 13, 14 or 15. It is a defence that at the time of the offence he believed the young woman to be over 16. The maximum penalty is five years imprisonment. It is an absolute offence for a man or boy aged 10 or over to have intercourse with a girl aged 12 or under. This means there can be no defence in such a case. The maximum penalty is life imprisonment. 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 also 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; and
  • If the victim is incapacitated through drink or drugs, or the victim or his or her family has been subject to violence or the threat of it, they cannot be considered to have given true consent; therefore offences may have been committed;
  • Child sexual exploitation is therefore potentially a child protection issue for all children under the age of 18 years and not just those in a specific age group.

The child sexual exploitation training which practitioners receive should also include what information should be given to the police in such cases, for example vehicle registration numbers, names, physical descriptions. It may also include what action staff should take in the case of suspected sexual or physical abuse in order to protect potential evidence, which may be useful in the case of an alleged perpetrator being prosecuted.

Children and Young People who go Missing

A significant number of children and young people who are being sexually exploited may go Missing from home or care, and education. Some go missing frequently; the more often they go missing the more vulnerable they are to being sexually exploited. If a child does go missing, the Children who go Missing from Home, Care and Education should be followed.

Independent Return Interviews with the child or young person can help in establishing why they went missing and the subsequent support that may be required, as well as preventing repeat incidents. Information gathered from return interviews can be used to inform the identification for Referral and Assessment of any child sexual exploitation cases.

Protection and Action to be Taken: the Multi-Agency Guidance, Child Sexual Exploitation

What to do with concerns:

The Multi Agency Guidance, Child Sexual Exploitation

Whenever a professional is considering making a CSE enquiry on behalf of the young person, they should discuss this with the Safeguarding designated officer in their agency first to decide if an enquiry would be an appropriate response. If professionals need further advice on the relevance of indicators or whether to make an enquiry about a young person, the MASH team can provide consultation.

All CSE enquires must be passed to the MASH team. This is to ensure that all information about the young person, their associates and possible perpetrators can be shared within the MASH leading to a full picture of the level of involvement in CSE and risks to the young person being obtained in a timely manner.

All information that the referring agency has relating to the child or young person. Possible perpetrators, locations and other young people with whom the young person associates should also be included on the enquiry form.

The CSE Risk Assessment Tool should be attached to the MASH enquiry form. Please note that risk assessment tools will be used to inform rather than determine professional decision making. Many young people are abused or exploited who have no obvious indicators of risk [1].

Tel: 01534 519 000
Enquiry forms can be accessed/downloaded from website.

Getting consent for an enquiry

The young person should be informed that an enquiry is being considered and their views on this sought. However, it is likely that the young person will be resistant to an enquiry being made and may not give consent.

Parents should also be made aware of concerns unless the young person strongly objects to this; however, parents must be involved if the young person:

  • Is under 13 years age;
  • Is aged between 13 and 15 but is thought not to be competent to make this decision;
  • Is 16 or 17 years but is thought to lack the mental capacity to make this decision;
  • Unless contact with the parents increases the risk to the child.

Where the young person is assessed as being at level 2 or 3 and may be at risk of significant harm, an enquiry can be made to MASH without consent being given, although consent should be sought. Professionals can seek advice on this from the MASH social worker.

An enquiry must be made with or without consent if the young person is under 13 years and the police must also be notified as it is likely that a criminal offence may have taken place.

Action on Enquiries

On receipt of an enquiry, the MASH team will check to see if the young person is already known to Children Services and if this is the case, will pass the enquiry and CSE risk assessment tool on to the allocated social worker.

Where the young person is not known to Children Services, the case will be passed to the MASH manager who will allocate an initial RAG rating based on the perceived level of risk (see Multi Agency Guidance, Child Sexual Exploitation, Levels of need and intervention). Level 2 and 3 cases where there is a risk of significant harm will be subject to MASH information sharing processes and any relevant information gathered from agencies will be passed on to the MASH decision maker.

Once information has been gathered, the MASH decision maker will refer cases on to the appropriate resource:

  • Level 1 cases will be referred on to the appropriate early help provision for a targeted service designed to provide support for the young person and divert them from CSE. The key worker in the early help service will be the young person’s lead professional and will carry out an Early Help assessment to identify the young person’s needs. The young person’s professional network will develop the young person’s diversion plan that will help them develop their resilience and reduce the risk of them becoming involved in CSE;
  • Level 2 cases; where the young person is at the early stages of involvement and there is no risk of significant harm but is considered to be in need, will be referred to Children Services for a social work assessment. The allocated social worker will be the young person’s lead professional and will carry out a child and family assessment and develop a child in need plan in partnership with the young person’s professional network;
  • Level 2 and level 3 cases where there is a risk of significant harm will be referred to Children Services and dealt with through child protection procedures.

See The Multi Agency Guidance, Child Sexual Exploitation.



Working with sexually exploited children is a complex issue which can involve serious crime and investigations over a wide geographical area.

Children may be frightened of the consequences of disclosure and may need to be given time to discuss their experiences.

The need to share information discreetly in a timely fashion has been shown to be vital in these cases.

Agencies and practitioners involved with a child or young person experiencing child sexual exploitation must consider disruption strategies which support the child or young person to leave the situation they find themselves in.

The prosecution and disruption of perpetrators is an essential part of the process in reducing harm. It is the responsibility of the police to gather evidence, investigate and interview perpetrators and prepare case files for consideration by the Law Officers with the intention of obtaining the successful conviction of offenders.

Many child sexual exploitation cases cross police force boundaries and therefore there should be cross boundary cooperation and information sharing. This may involve CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) who can support the police by helping to coordinate cross-boundary or international investigations involving child sex offender networks or in the management of high risk offenders which may involve grooming through chat rooms and social networking sites or involvement with paedophile rings.

Supporting Children and Young People out of Child Sexual Exploitation

Practitioners from statutory agencies and voluntary sector organisations together with the child or young person, foster carers, and his / her family as appropriate, should agree on the services which should be provided to them and how they will be coordinated. The types of intervention offered should be appropriate to their needs and should take full account of identified risk factors and their individual circumstances. This may include, for example, previous abuse, missing incidents, involvement in gangs and groups and/or child trafficking. Health services provided may include sexual health services and mental health services. Advice should be sought from the nearest specialist service which works with children and young people involved in child sexual exploitation. A referral should be made as appropriate, if the child or young person is in agreement.

For children who are Looked After issues raised and actions planned should be incorporated into the child’s Care Plan and Placement Plan, and reviewed as part of the Looked After Child Review.

Because the effects of child sexual exploitation can last well into adulthood, support may be required over a long period of time. In such circumstances, effective links should be made between children and adult services and statutory and voluntary organisations. For young people who are Looked After, this should be incorporated into their Pathway Plan.

Identifying and Prosecuting Perpetrators

The police and criminal justice agencies lead on the identification and prosecution of perpetrators. All practitioners, however, have a role in gathering, recording and sharing information with the police and other agencies, as appropriate and in agreement with them.

It is important to recognise that legal representatives supporting both Police and Children’s Services undertake specialist training in respect of CSE. 

The collation of intelligence is important and the definition of specific areas as ‘hotspots’ for trained observation will assist enquiries and prevention. Areas that attract young people but are less regulated than formally organised spaces. Any area that has a concentration of fast food outlets and takeaways, taxi facilities, cinema, leisure centre, restaurants, shopping malls, parks is a potential area of recruitment. Any area that has high levels of runaway activity needs to be mapped as a hotspot. Similarly probation services need to map areas of employment for known offenders, if patterns of employment arise in these areas this intelligence needs to be forwarded and shared with other agencies. 

It is important that intelligence systems around Missing Persons (MISPERS) and CSE are interlinked within all organisations.

Practitioners and foster carers should bear in mind that sexual exploitation often does not occur in isolation and has links to other crime types, including:

  • Child trafficking (into, out of and within the UK);
  • Domestic Violence and Abuse;
  • Sexual violence in intimate relationships;
  • Grooming (both online and offline);
  • Abusive images of children and their distribution (organised abuse);
  • Organised sexual abuse of children;
  • Drugs-related offences (dealing, consuming and cultivating);
  • Gang-related activity;
  • Immigration-related offences;
  • Domestic servitude.

Supporting Children and Young People through Related Legal Proceedings

Young people need to have access to supportive professionals or agencies to support them through court processes if prosecutions are to be successful. Consideration of the best service to provide this is essential. Victim Support Services Tel: 440496 and Police family liaison services will be made available to the young person. They will also be assisted by the sexual offences liaison officer and Witness Care Unit of the States of Jersey Police.

A young person will not be deterred from accessing pre-trial therapy as this could ensure their emotional well being through a court hearing. A pre court familiarisation visit will take place and all aspects of cross examination will be explained. Interviews need to be in accordance with ABE guidelines and undertaken by ABE trained staff.

Court staff need to be familiar with CSE issues.

If a young person is involved in statutory legal proceedings as a result of or in addition to criminal proceedings, the impact of CSE upon the child’s needs must be considered. Given the complexity this may add to any proceedings the child needs to have independent legal advice within statutory proceedings and this will be authorised by the courts.

Further Information

SPB CSA CSE Joint Strategy 2018-2020 – Plan on a Page

Sexual Offences (Jersey) Law 2018

Child Sexual Exploitation: Definition and Guide for Practitioners (DfE, February 2017) - definition and a guide for practitioners, local leaders and decision makers working to protect children from child sexual exploitation.

What to do if you’re worried a child is being abused - guidance to help practitioners identify the signs of child abuse and neglect and understand what action to take.

Centre of Expertise on Child Sexual Abuse

Barnardos - Child Sexual Exploitation – resources and research on CSE.

Child sexual exploitation: Practice Tool (2017) (open access) - further background information about child sexual exploitation and additional commentary around some of the complexities of practically responding to the issue.

Modern slavery and human trafficking.

Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation: Progress Report - gives an update on action the government is taking to deal with child sexual exploitation.

Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation: A Resource Pack for Councils - includes case studies.

Responding to Child Sexual Exploitation – College of Policing

Child Sexual Abuse – The Children’s Commissioner

Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) for the 21st Century, Brook, PSHE Association and Sex Education Forum

Amendments to this Chapter

In June 2019, links to various guidance and information were added to the Further Information.