Child Sexual Exploitation

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Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is child abuse, with those children and young people who become involved facing significant risks to their physical, emotional and psychological health and wellbeing.

Sexual exploitation of children and young people under 18 involves exploitative situations, contexts and relationships where the young person (or third person/s) receive ‘something’ (e.g., food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of them performing, and/or another or others performing on them, sexual activities.

CSE 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 himself or herself as a victim of exploitation. Perpetrators of CSE can be from within or from outside a child or young person’s family.

CSE also needs to be placed firmly in the context of abusive relationships and specifically; the impact that domestic violence can have on how a child or young person views relationships. For a child or young person growing up in such an environment, the impact of their experiences can create limited and limiting expectations with regards to what constitutes a healthy relationship; thus increasing their susceptibility to exploitation in the future.

There is currently no identified single profile or type of CSE activity in either the City or Hackney.

In Hackney, 41 young people were identified as having been at risk of or vulnerable to CSE at the end of March 2015. There have been some investigations involving more than one exploitative adult and a number of young women identified as potential victims. There is evidence of gang involvement in relation to some young people at risk of CSE in Hackney, although in most instances where this is the case, this is not the only form of exploitation. The CSE profile for Hackney indicates that the most common type of exploitation involves young women being exploited by male peers or those slightly older than them.

In the City of London, no resident children have been identified as being at risk of CSE, although during 2014/15, the City of London Police engaged with 5 young people who were not City residents, but who had been identified as being at risk of CSE through Police contact. Following securing their immediate protection, relevant and appropriate communication was made with the home authorities where the young people lived. Despite the low numbers of children and young people living in the City, agencies remain alert to the potential risk, particularly when seen in the context of the City having the highest daytime population density of any local authority, with hundreds of thousands of workers, residents, students and visitors packed into just over a square mile of space.

The CHSCB has developed a strategy that presents a roadmap for the future towards which all local professionals can work. It focuses on the following priorities:

  • Knowing our problem, knowing our response
  • Strong leadership
  • Prevention and early intervention
  • Protection and support
  • Disruption and prosecution

The CHSCB also offers a range of specialist training for professionals – see our training programme for more information.

The following factors were identified as making children vulnerable to abuse:

  • Living in a chaotic or dysfunctional household (including parental substance use, domestic violence, parental mental health issues, parental criminality);
  • History of abuse (including familial child sexual abuse;
  • Risk of forced marriage, risk of ‘honour’-based violence;
  • Physical and emotional abuse and neglect);
  • Recent bereavement or loss;
  • Gang association either through relatives, peers or intimate relationships (in cases of gang associated CSE only).
  • Attending school with young people who are sexually exploited;
  • Learning disabilities;
  • Unsure about their sexual orientation or unable to disclose sexual orientation to their families;
  • Friends with young people who are sexually exploited;
  • Homeless;
  • Lacking friends from the same age group;
  • Living in a gang neighbourhood;
  • Living in residential care;
  • Living in hostel, bed and breakfast accommodation or a foyer;
  • Low self-esteem or self-confidence;
  • Young carer.

The following signs and behaviours were identified as being generally seen in children who are already being sexually exploited:

  • Missing from home or care
  • Physical injuries
  • Drug or alcohol misuse
  • Involvement in offending
  • Repeat sexually-transmitted infections, pregnancy and terminations
  • Absent from school
  • Change in physical appearance
  • Evidence of sexual bullying and/or vulnerability through the internet and/or
  • Social networking sites
  • Estranged from their family
  • Receipt of gifts from unknown sources
  • Recruiting others into exploitative situations
  • Poor mental health
  • Self-harm
  • Thoughts of or attempts at suicide