Child Sexual Exploitation - Know the Signs

Child Sexual Expolitation - Know the Signs

Many of you will have seen stories in the media in the past couple of years about individuals and gangs grooming and sexually exploiting children, sometimes over long periods of time. These crimes happen across the UK including in the Gwent area and it’s important that the public work with the police to help keep children safe and bring offenders to justice.

What is child sexual exploitation?

In very basic terms, it involves a child victim being targeted and groomed by adults, with the intention of sexually assaulting and/or raping them. The child or children are often targeted because they are vulnerable due to their age.

Grooming can take place in many forms - both 'on line' in social media chat rooms, via mobile phones or in person. The child will not always realise they are being groomed.

Often the grooming starts with friendship or a relationship, where the offender may supply gifts such as clothes, money, mobile phones, which may progress to the supply of alcohol and drugs.

Sometimes the children are given lifts and transported around. The offender will usually encourage the child to distance themselves further from their usual family and friends. Soon into this friendship/relationship, sexual assaults and rapes may occur upon the child.

The offenders are very organised and deliberate in their actions, in some cases working together within a group. They are predatory sex offenders, targeting specifically vulnerable children.

How can we educate young people about the dangers?

A great deal of work has been ongoing to make young people aware of the dangers of Child Sexual Exploitation. This includes regular work from partner organisations such as schoolbeat within schools to make pupils aware of this offence and how to identify it. This preventative work compliments the proactive operations by our officers and other work undertaken by partner agencies such as local authorities.

How can people recognise where sexual exploitation is taking place?

Even something that seems like normal teenage behaviour could be a sign that a child is being sexually exploited.  Some of the visible signs include:

  • Regularly going missing from home or school and staying out all night
  • Changes in behaviour – becoming aggressive and disruptive or quiet and withdrawn.
  • Unexplained gifts or new possessions such as clothes, jewellery, mobile phones or money that can’t be accounted for.
  • Increase in mobile phone use or secretive use
  • Appearing to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Being picked up or dropped off in cars by unknown adults
  • A significantly older ‘boyfriend’ or ‘friend’ or lots of new friends
  • Spending excessive amounts of time online and becoming increasingly secretive about time spent online
  • Sudden involvement in criminal behaviour or increased offending
  • Sexual health problems

More detailed information can be found via the The National Crime Agency’s CA's ‘CEOP Command’ (formerly the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre) ‘Think you Know campaign web-site.

Does technology make this offence more difficult to identify?

Although technology enables such offences to take place online through chat rooms and other mediums, it also leaves offenders open to being caught. The Police service monitors these sites and where there is evidence of Child Sexual Exploitation, we can and do take action by seizing equipment such as computers and mobile phones. These strengthen the weight of evidence against the offenders.

What can I do?

If you have any suspicions or concerns about Child Sexual Exploitation, please call police on 101 or get in touch with Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111. In an emergency always call 999.

Related Links

For more information about this type of criminality and exploitation visit: