Child Sexual Exploitation

Think, spot and speak out against abuse

Together, we can stop Child Sexual Exploitation


We are committed to helping safeguard our children by encouraging residents to recognise and respond to Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) by spotting the signs and highlighting the fact that CSE can, and does happen in West Sussex.

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.

Key Facts:

  • Everyone has a role to play in raising awareness of CSE
  • The safeguarding of children is everybody’s business
  • Any child can be sexually exploited no matter what culture, ethnicity, religion or gender from any background

Across West Sussex we are committed to stopping CSE. Our dedicated CSE campaign is targeted towards young people, parents & carers and professionals.

Recognise the signs of Child Sexual Exploitation:

  • Sexualised behaviour - children appearing to be in ‘relationships’ with adults
  • Absence - going missing from home/school, out in the day or late at night
  • Family issues - domestic abuse and neglect
  • Emotional and physical health - low or excessively high self-esteem, changes in appearance, self-harming, concerning appearance or behaviour
  • Gang involvement and criminality - are these children at risk from more sophisticated older children/adults or organised criminals?
  • Use of technology – excessive calls/texts, extensive use of social media to meet people, sexting, secretive about online activity, having to keep mobile phone with them all the time.
  • Alcohol and drug use (becoming problematic) - children being bought alcohol by adults
  • Receipt of gifts and unexplained money
  • Distrust of authority and change in behaviour - consider whether these are children troubling rather than troublesome?

We support Sussex Police’s CSE campaign and are committed to preventing Child Sexual Exploitation by delivering focused training, in partnership with Barnardo’s, to professionals and community and voluntary groups raising awareness of CSE.

We have trained professionals to use the West Sussex Exploitation screening tools and have written a number of blogs and materials around healthy relationships aimed at young people.


Young people

Young people

Preventing and disrupting Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) in Sussex is a high priority for West Sussex County Council and all our partners.

If you are a child (legally, that means anyone 17 and under) and you are worried about something happening in your own relationship, or a friend's, keep reading this page and visit our Your Space site which tells you everything you need to know about CSE, including: 

  • an explanation of what CSE is
  • how it happens
  • spotting the warning signs
  • how to get help.

So what is Child Sexual Exploitation?

CSE occurs when a child (anyone aged 18 and under) is used by being tricked or forced into doing something sexual in return for something - like love, affection, money, drugs or alcohol.

It happens in the real world and online.

It's a kind of abuse, although children and young people often do not see it that way, because they are groomed (tricked) by the abusers:

“Through threats, bribes, violence, humiliation, or by telling you that they love you, they will have the power to get you to do sexual things for their own, or other people’s benefit or enjoyment (including touching or kissing private parts, sex, taking sexual photos)." (NWGNetwork, 2008)

Ask yourself:

  • Do you stay out overnight?
  • Have you been missing from home?
  • Do you miss school? (even for a couple of lessons or during lunch and breaks)
  • Does a grown up outside your family give you money, clothes, jewellery, a mobile phone or other presents?
  • Do you have an older boyfriend or girlfriend?
  • Do you take drugs/and or drink alcohol?
  • Are you losing touch with your friends or family?
  • Do you hate yourself sometimes?
  • Are you secretive about where you go and who you see?
  • Do you chat to people online you have never met?

If this sounds like your life, or if you're worried about a friend, you or your friend could be at risk of CSE by other people or older adults. 

Taking risks is part of growing up, but sometimes young people get out of their depth and need some help.

Services across West Sussex are ready to help. You will be listened to, believed and never judged.

If something is happening to you, say something:

  • tell a friend who you know will consult with a teacher
  • tell an adult
  • ring 101 and report it to the police

For confidential support and advice:

Call the Police on 101 or 999 in an emergency

  • text or call the National CSE helpline anonymously on 116 000
  • call the Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub on 01403 229900
  • call Boys and Young Men’s Online Support on 07921 372896

You have a right to feel safe at all times. Reach out for help - don’t suffer in silence.

So how does it happen?

Some adults draw children and young people into sexual relationships. This is how it can happen:

  • Other young people or adults are nice to you.
  • They show you a lot of interest and affection at the beginning, and make you feel special.
  • Sometimes they ask groups of young people to come back to their house with older adults.
  • They offer you drugs and alcohol and a place to chill out.
  • They may even buy you presents like clothes, a mobile phone, even give you enough money to buy things like cigarettes.
  • When they have gained your trust and affection, they may change how they act around you.
  • They will ask for sex, nude photos, or sexual touching for themselves or other people, in return for alcohol, drugs, presents, money; all the things they gave you for free before.
  • They stop being nice and become threatening and violent.
  • They blame you for what is happening.

Remember you are not to blame if this is happening to you.

The West Sussex Child Sexual Exploitation Promise is our commitment and promise to young people in West Sussex who have any involvement in CSE.

We promise to:

  • focus on you
  • listen
  • be honest and upfront
  • be trustworthy
  • respect your opinion.

Download the West Sussex Child Sexual Exploitation Promise (PDF, 1MB)

Young people debate healthy relationships

In 2016 year we worked with The Towers Convent School and St Philip Howard Catholic School to get young people's views on healthy relationships, online safety and consent.

If you want to know more about their thoughts on the topics discussed then visit the Your Space West Sussex blog to watch the videos and find out how your school can get involved.

Parents and carers

Parents and carers

What is Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)?

CSE is a serious form of child abuse.

It involves children and young people up to the age of 18 being forced or manipulated into sexual activity in exchange for something such as money, gifts, accommodation or affection or status. The sexual activity and exchange may be seen by the young person or other people as consensual, but in reality is based on an imbalance of power.

CSE can also occur through the use of technology without the child’s immediate recognition; for example, being persuaded to post sexual images on the internet or performing sexual acts on web cameras. Rewards or gifts can be hidden in online games such as getting to the next level, in game ‘gold/coins’ or points being exchanged.

Perpetrators ‘groom’ children and young people for sexual exploitation in a process designed to break down the child’s defences and existing relationships with family and friends to establish control. There are many ways that children and young people may be sexually exploited. Professionals call these ‘models of Child Sexual Exploitation’.

Below are three of the most common ways young people are drawn into this type of abuse:

  1. Inappropriate relationship: Sometimes also referred to as the ‘boyfriend model’ but can involve an older woman too. The child/young person is in a relationship (or thinks they are) with an older partner who exerts a great deal of influence and control over them and ultimately uses this to sexually exploit.
  2. Peer exploitation: The child/young person is sexually exploited by peers who are known to them at school, in the neighbourhood or through mutual friends.
  3. Organised exploitation: the child/young person is groomed or sexually exploited by a network of perpetrators and may be coerced into sexual activity with different people. This form of abuse can also involve children and young people being trafficked (moved) for the purposes of sexual exploitation.

CSE is happening right now across West Sussex. Your child is not too young to be a victim because offenders don’t just target older children. CSE can start really easily, often without the child or young person realising they are being groomed. CSE can and does happen to children and young people from all backgrounds.

We know that it can be hard to identify. A change in behaviour in a child or young person may often seem like normal teenage behaviour or a sign your child is growing up. But sometimes it could be something far more serious.  It is vitally important that you feel confident in recognising and responding to the signs of abuse because it could be happening to your child or someone you know. The easiest way to do this is to think 'ABC' - look out for worrying changes in their Appearance, Behaviour and Communication. 

Look out for:

  • Persistently going missing from school or home, or being found out-of-area
  • Unexplained acquisition of money, clothes or mobile phones
  • Excessive receipt of texts or phone calls
  • Relationships with controlling, older individuals or gang association
  • Leaving home or care without explanation
  • Suspicion of self-harm, physical assault or unexplained injuries
  • Significant decline in school performance
  • Significant changes in emotional well-being

Our Parents & Carers leaflet (below) has more information regarding signs to look out for, where to get support and much more.

Online Safety

We have put together a short how-to film on online safety. This includes social media privacy settings and parental controls.

Please use the timings below to skip to a section relevant to yourself:

0:05 - Facebook privacy
0:54 - Twitter privacy
1:21 - Instagram privacy
1:43 - Parental controls via Windows
2:37 - Parental controls via Apple  

By playing this video YouTube may set cookies.

Please note: all of the above information was correct as of July 2016. As technology evolves this may differ but we will endeavour to keep this information up to date as much as possible.



Everyone has a responsibility to safeguard children and young people and protect them from harm.  During the course of your normal work, be curious and ask yourself ‘could this child or young person be at risk of exploitation?’ ‘Are they displaying some of the warning signs of abuse?’ If the answer is yes, you need to act. There is a wealth of information and support available to help you recognise and respond to child sexual exploitation.

Scroll down to find out more about local resources available to people working with or around children and young people.

Visit the West Sussex Safeguarding Children Partnership website to find out more about your role in helping to stop Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE). The page includes information on:

  • What CSE is
  • Who it affects
  • Signs to spot
  • Screening tool and risk assessment
  • Where to get help.

There is also a comprehensive list of CSE online resources available to professionals:

These look at social media and sexting as well as videos aimed at young people, boys and young men and children who regularly go missing.

Updated guidance from the Department for Education - 16/02/2017

The Department for Education (DfE) has issued a guide called 'Child sexual exploitation: definition and guide for practitioners'. This is aimed at practitioners, local leaders and decision makers working to protect children from child sexual exploitation.

The advice is non-statutory, and has been produced to help practitioners, local leaders and decision makers who work with children and families to identify child sexual exploitation and take appropriate action in response. This includes the management, disruption and prosecution of perpetrators.

Download and view the DfE guide (PDF, 353KB)

Resources for healthcare staff

Health Education England (HEE), in association with the Department of Health & Social Care and NHS England have created a video providing practical advice on what to do if healthcare professionals and others suspect a patient or person in their care is at risk of CSE.

View the video about what to do if someone is at risk (15 mins duration).

Chat Health

Chat Health is the school nurse messaging service run by the Sussex Community NHS Foundation Trust. The young peoples’ service provides confidential advice and support for 11-19 year olds attending secondary schools across West Sussex. The service is available to discuss any problems that they may be facing such as relationship, mental health, bullying, alcohol and drugs, and healthy eating.

If you think this service may benefit any of the young people you work with, please call 07480 635424.

If you would like to discuss your concerns with someone, or would like to discuss a safeguarding referral, please call the West Sussex Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub. Please see the 'Where to get help' box, right, for contact details.  

Across West Sussex we have formed a number of strategic partnerships including those with Asphaleia, Barnardo’s and Missing People.

Using Big Lotto funding, Asphaleia have developed CSE provision aimed at children identified at lower risk of exploitation, who could benefit from intervention (including 1:1, group work and parenting support). The aim of this is to help keep children and young people safe from harm. As part of this work, the charity has also been working with schools across the county to provide age appropriate support in the form of a series of safeguarding assemblies, lessons and workshops with year 6 children, in addition to more formalised support to teaching staff.

Barnardo’s have been a strategic partner of West Sussex County Council for a number of years. The children’s charity provides training opportunities on behalf of the county council to a range of public and community sector workers and professionals. The county council also commissions Barnardo’s to provide a targeted intervention service (BYOU) for young people affected by exploitation.

In 2016, Missing People were awarded the contract to conduct independent return home interviews for all children and young people reported missing in West Sussex. The charity has worked with the County Council to increase the support offered to vulnerable young people upon their return to home or care setting.



Safeguarding is everyone’s responsibility.

If you work or come into contact with young people in a school setting, whether in an employed or voluntary capacity, then you have a duty of care towards them.

It is vital that you recognise the signs of exploitation and know how to respond; including reporting your concerns and supporting young people.

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) affects pupils in all educational environments, including primary and secondary schools, so we want to support you in developing resources to help protect children and young people in your care.

Schools can help teach pupils emotional resilience skills, what healthy relationships look and feel like and how to make informed decisions. These important life skills will help protect children and young people from sexual exploitation. Positive relationships between pupils and school staff will encourage children to disclose any worries about their own safety or the safety of another student.

At the bottom of this page you can download a range of resources offering schools’ support.

These include:

  • a copy of our CSE promise for young people
  • a young people’s awareness poster
  • a booklet aimed at explaining CSE to children with special educational needs
  • a guide for practitioners working with boys affected by CSE.

For more general information about ways schools can help tackle CSE or for links to teaching resources, please visit the West Sussex Safeguarding Children Partnership's information for schools

For general school safeguarding questions, contact Jez Prior (Safeguarding in Education Manager) at

Safeguarding concerns about children and young people should always be made via the West Sussex Multi Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH). In an emergency, please contact Sussex Police.


Where to get help

If you suspect that a child or young person has been or is being sexually exploited this must be shared with one of the agencies below:

Police: 101 or in an emergency 999

West Sussex Multi-agency Safeguarding Hub, MASH: 01403 229 900

Out of Hours Duty Team: 0330 222 6664

See Something, Say Something national CSE helpline: 116 000 or

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