Child Exploitation (CE)

The term CE stands for Child Exploitation.

Child exploitation comes in different forms.

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a form of sexual abuse that involves the manipulation and/or coercion of young people under the age of 18 into sexual activity in exchange for things such as money, gifts, accommodation, affection or status. The manipulation or 'grooming' process involves befriending children, gaining their trust, and often supplying them with drugs and alcohol, sometimes over a long period of time.

The abusive relationship between victim and perpetrator involves an imbalance of power which limits the victim's options. It is a form of abuse which is often misunderstood by victims and outsiders as consensual. Although it is true that the victim can be tricked into believing they are in a loving relationship, no child under the age of 18 can ever consent to being abused or exploited.

Abuse often involves violent and degrading sexual assaults and rape.

CSE can occur without physical contact, via online exploitation, when children are persuaded or forced to post indecent images of themselves online, participate in non-contact sexual activities via a webcam or smartphone, or engage in sexual conversations on a mobile phone.

Child criminal exploitation (CCE) occurs when children are coerced into committing crimes, including being ‘recruited’ for county lines, or who are trafficked or exploited for other criminal purposes such as modern day slavery.

The risk to a young person, and their family and friends, as a result of experiencing CCE or CSE can include but is not limited to:

  • Physical injuries - risk of serious violence and death
  • Emotional and psychological trauma
  • Sexual violence - sexual assault, rape, indecent images being taken and shared as part of initiation, revenge and or punishment, internally inserting drugs
  • Debt bondage- young person and families being “in debt‟ to the exploiters and this is then used to control the young person.
  • Neglect and basic needs not being met
  • Living in unclean and/or dangerous environments
  • Tiredness and sleep deprivation. An exploited child is expected to carry out criminal activities over long periods and through the night
  • Poor attendance and/or attainment in school, college or university

Tactics used by child exploitation perpetrators

Technology is widely used by perpetrators as a method of grooming and coercing victims, often through social networking sites and mobile devices. This form of abuse usually occurs in private, or in semi-public places such as parks, cinemas, cafes and hotels. Perpetrators increasingly organise parties where they give victims drugs and alcohol before sexually abusing or recruiting them.

What makes a child more at risk?

The children most at risk of exploitation are some of the most vulnerable in our society, for example those who share some of the characteristics below. However, CE is a crime that can affect any child, anytime, anywhere.

  • Come from a chaotic or dysfunctional household
  • A lack of friends in the same age group
  • Confused about their sexuality
  • History of domestic abuse or neglect
  • Learning disabilities
  • Have come into contact with other exploited youngsters, e.g. at school
  • Have suffered a recent bereavement or loss
  • Are homeless or living in residential care, a hostel or bed and breakfast
  • Have low self-esteem or confidence
  • Are a young carer
  • Live in a gang neighbourhood.

Offenders come from many different social and ethnic backgrounds but they all have one thing in common. They are abusing young people and are using their status or position to exploit vulnerable victims.

What are the signs?

  • Unexplained injuries e.g. bruising
  • Regularly using drugs or drinking alcohol
  • Mood swings, aggression towards others
  • Truancy or a drop in performance at school
  • Self-harm – e.g. cutting or eating disorders
  • Change in appearance, or borrowing clothes from others
  • Always tired
  • Unexplained relationships with older people
  • Staying out late, not returning home
  • They have unexplained gifts, expensive clothes, mobile phones
  • Unexplained money, frequently taking part in activities requiring money
  • Unknown vehicles dropping them off or picking them up
  • Unknown friends on their social media sites
  • Secretive phone calls and internet use


If you know and see the signs you can help your child.

Know and See campaign

The four local authorities in Cheshire have further enhanced their child exploitation campaign set up to help children and young people who may be victims of exploitation.

The group, which also incorporates Cheshire Police, health and education partners and the Crown Prosecution Service, has commissioned the Cheshire-based young people’s service Young Addaction to support their Know and See campaign.

The exploitation could be from county lines, gang activity or sexual abuse.  Peers and adults are encouraged to know and see the signs so that, by seeing something, they can say something.

Working with our partners we have created the Know and see website for young people which gives advice about identifying the signs of abuse.