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Sexual abuse and exploitation

What is sexual abuse or exploitation?


The Governments of the UK define child sexual abuse (CSA) as:

 when a child is forced or persuaded to take part in sexual activities.

This may involve physical contact or non-contact activities and can happen online or offline (Department for Education, 2023; Department of Health 2017; Scottish Government, 2023; Wales Safeguarding Procedures Project Board, 2020).

Children and young people may not always understand that they are being sexually abused. 


The NSPCC go on to define

Contact abuse as involving activities where an abuser makes physical contact with a child


Non-contact abuse as involving activities where there is no physical contact

Click on the NSPCC link to find out more.


The document Keeping Children Safe in Education (2023) has the following to say about Child Sexual Exploitation: 


We know that different forms of harm often overlap, and that perpetrators may subject children and young people to multiple forms of abuse, such as ... sexual exploitation.


In some cases the exploitation or abuse will be in exchange for something the victim needs or wants (for example, money, gifts or affection), and/or will be to the financial benefit or other advantage, such as increased status, of the perpetrator or facilitator.


Children can be exploited by adult males or females, as individuals or in groups. They may also be exploited by other children, who themselves may be experiencing exploitation – where this is the case, it is important that the child perpetrator is also recognised as a victim.


Whilst the age of the child may be a contributing factor for an imbalance of power, there are a range of other factors that could make a child more vulnerable to exploitation, including, sexual identity, cognitive ability, learning difficulties, communication ability, physical strength, status, and access to economic or other resources.


Some of the following can be indicators of both child criminal and sexual exploitation where children:

  • appear with unexplained gifts, money or new possessions
  • associate with other children involved in exploitation
  • suffer from changes in emotional well-being
  • misuse alcohol and other drugs
  • go missing for periods of time or regularly come home late, and
  • regularly miss school or education or do not take part in education.

Children who have been exploited will need additional support to help keep them in education.


Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) can be a one-off occurrence or a series of incidents over time and range from opportunistic to complex organised abuse. It can involve force and/or enticement-based methods of compliance and may, or may not, be accompanied by violence or threats of violence.


Some additional specific indicators that may be present in CSE are children who:

  • have older boyfriends or girlfriends; and
  • suffer from sexually transmitted infections, display sexual behaviours beyond expected sexual development or become pregnant.


What can I do to help my child?


Look out for physical indicators of abuse, such as:

  • bruising
  • bleeding
  • discharge
  • pain or soreness in the genital or anal area
  • sexually transmitted infections


Look out for emotional indicators of abuse, such as:

  • being afraid of and/or avoiding a particular person (including a family member or friend)
  • having nightmares or bed-wetting
  • being withdrawn
  • alluding to ‘secrets’
  • self-harming
  • running away from home
  • developing eating problems
  • displaying sexualised behaviour or having sexual knowledge that’s inappropriate for their stage of development
  • misusing drugs or alcohol


See the NSPCC web page for more information on how to spot the signs.


If you are at all concerned, the best thing to do is to talk to someone... see the advert from NSPCC below:

Call the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000

NSPCC TV ad, 'Say Something' 60 SEC

1 in 20 children experience sexual abuse. And for these children, and the adults who are worried it's happening, speaking out can be incredibly difficult. It means, right now, there's a silence around sexual abuse. That's why everything we do - from our helplines to our work in every community - helps to break this silence and prevent abuse from ever happening.

Don't forget to register your child for Free school Meals... see our page under the Parents tab for details, contact 0208 937 3110 or log into to register...


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