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.
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.
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.
Help us be there for more children
Abuse can happen to any child. But it can be prevented. If you found this information useful, help us continue our work to fight for every childhood.
Your support could help us deliver services like Protect and Respect to protect more children from sexual exploitation
Protecting children from abuse
Protect and Respect
Helping children who have been sexually exploited
Find out how you can help protect children who have experienced, or at risk of, child sexual exploitation.
Last year a third of all calls to our helpline were about neglect, a figure that's even higher at Christmas. Donate now and help shine a light on children left in the dark.