Grooming and child sexual exploitation

Advice and information about protecting children from grooming and child sexual exploitation

Three Girls, a BBC drama that tells the true story of girls groomed, raped and trafficked in Rochdale, has started conversations about child sexual exploitation across the UK.

It can be difficult to understand, but many young people don't realise that what's happened to them is abuse. Our advice explains what child sexual exploitation and grooming are, how to spot the signs - and what can be done to help.

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What is child sexual exploitation?

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a type of sexual abuse. Children in exploitative situations and relationships receive something such as gifts, money or affection as a result of performing sexual activities or others performing sexual activities on them.

Children or young people may be tricked into believing they're in a loving, consensual relationship. They might be invited to parties and given drugs and alcohol. They may also be groomed and exploited online.

Some children and young people are trafficked into or within the UK for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Sexual exploitation can also happen to young people in gangs.

Signs of grooming

The signs of grooming aren't always obvious and groomers will often go to great lengths not to be identified.

If a child is being groomed they may:

  • be very secretive, including about what they are doing online
  • have older boyfriends or girlfriends
  • go to unusual places to meet friends
  • have new things such as clothes or mobile phones that they can't or won't explain
  • have access to drugs and alcohol.

In older children, signs of grooming can easily be mistaken for 'normal' teenage behaviour, but you may notice unexplained changes in behaviour or personality, or inappropriate sexual behaviour for their age.

Children's stories

"He'd arranged to meet the girls out of school on the Monday and take them off with him."

Read Leslie's story

Sexual exploitation

Grooming

Trafficking

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