Child sexual exploitation crimes up 10% in the last year

We’re launching our Full Story campaign to connect more young people at risk of, or experiencing, sexual exploitation with Childline.


New analysis of police-recorded crime data reveals the number of child sexual exploitation crimes has increased by 10% within the last year.

During 2021/22 in England and Wales there were 17,486 crimes logged by police where children had been sexually exploited – an average of 48 offences a day.

We’re revealing this data alongside the launch of the Full Story campaign in a bid to encourage more children and teenagers at risk of or suffering sexual exploitation to use Childline for immediate, confidential help.

Over the last year, our helpline has heard from thousands of young people about sexual exploitation with some being manipulated into performing sexual activities after being given money, drugs or love and affection.

Others have been sexually exploited after being trafficked from their home after being threatened with violence or the promise of a better life elsewhere.

The number of Childline counselling sessions on sexual exploitation and abuse has increased from 5,962 to 6,230 this year (April 2021 - March 2022).

The campaign has created a series of short films showing five different scenarios of sexual exploitation, taken from real Childline calls.

One girl of secondary school age said:


“I was abused by my dad when I was younger. My boyfriend has started to sexually abuse me and has introduced his friends to do the same. I've been raped by my boyfriend. He has been giving me drink and drugs.

"I want to break up with him, but I'm scared about what he will do. I feel like it's my fault for letting this happen. I've considered going to the police, but my boyfriend has said he will show people sexual videos of me.”


As well as helping children and young people gain an understanding of what sexual exploitation is and what a healthy relationship looks like, we are focused on getting more young people to connect with us so we can offer immediate help and confidential support.

This week, the service has unveiled posters at bus stops, motorway service stations, cinemas, colleges, Pupil Referral Units, youth centres, youth hostels, children’s homes, GPs, and sexual health clinics.

Although more children are reaching out for support on this issue, our counsellors know that there are many barriers and reasons which prevent some children from speaking out and getting help.

For some children, they may be being exploited by a family member or someone in a position of authority, other cases it may be a girlfriend or boyfriend. The grooming methods used can be subtle, so often they don’t recognise anything is wrong or that they’re in danger.

While others might blame themselves for what they are experiencing, some are being blackmailed or threatened by their abuser causing them to remain silent due to fear.

Darren Worth, Service Head of Childline, said:

“Sexual exploitation is a complex crime and often when children describe what is happening in their relationship, they don’t realise they are being groomed and abused. 

“Our counsellors have heard from children who have said they didn’t realise what they experienced in a relationship or friendship was wrong until they were much older, and some said at the time they thought their abuser was someone they could trust.

“Others said they thought they were to blame for what had happened and were scared about what would happen if they did speak out.

“This is why this campaign is so important as it’s essential that all children and young people have an awareness of this issue and know that no matter what the circumstances are, that sexual exploitation is never a child’s fault and there are people like Childline who can help.”

Sir Peter Wanless, NSPCC CEO, said:


“Child sexual exploitation casts a dark shadow across our society, inflicting fear and pain on a rising number of children and young people.

“Greater public and professional awareness of this problem is vital, along with places like Childline which offers free and confidential help to those that are struggling, suffering or are confused at what is being done to them.

“Government must also provide high-quality sex and relationships education to all children and young people, giving them a better understanding of what is and is not a healthy relationship. At the same time our political leaders must make child safety a key priority and commit to fundamental reform of the wider child protection system.”