Child sexual exploitation Facts and statistics

Official statistics on how many sexually exploited children have been identified by the authorities are not currently available. Although there has been a lot of research into the factors that are associated with child sexual exploitation, very few studies look into the numbers of children who have been exploited. 

People

Over 2,400 children were victims of sexual exploitation in gangs and groups from August 2010 to October 2011

Explanation: 2,409 children were confirmed as victims of sexual exploitation in gangs and groups during the 14-month period from August 2010 to October 2011.

illustration of umbrella

The most common reasons for children to be trafficked are sexual exploitation and criminal exploitation.

Explanation: 3,309 potential victims of human trafficking were identified in 2014. 732 (22%) were aged under 18. The most prevalent exploitation types for children believed to have been trafficked were sexual exploitation (32% of all children believed to have been trafficked) and criminal exploitation (19%). The exploitation type of 30% of children believed to have been trafficked was recorded as unknown.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) collects information from a number of different agencies about potential victims of trafficking. Cases that meet specific criteria will be added to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). The NRM was set up in 2009 as a process for identifying and supporting victims of trafficking.

These figures are likely to be under-estimates due to the difficulties in recognising and understanding that individuals have been victims of trafficking.

See also National Crime Agency (2015) National referral mechanism statistics: end of year summary 2014 (PDF) and Indicator 19 in How safe are our children? 2016.

Find out more about the National Referral Mechanism.

Over 230 children were trafficked for sexual exploitation last year

Explanation: In 2013, 236 children were believed to have been trafficked for sexual exploitation. 

The National Crime Agency (NCA) collects information from a number of different agencies about potential victims of trafficking. Cases that meet specific criteria will be added to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). The NRM was set up in 2009 as a process for identifying and supporting victims of trafficking. 

These figures are likely to be under-estimates due to the difficulties in recognising and understanding that individuals have been victims of trafficking. 

See also:

Find out more about the National Referral Mechanism.

1 in 5 indecent images of children shared online were taken by the child themselves

Explanation: In 2012, CEOP received 8,000 reports of indecent images of children being shared, featuring 70,000 still images and videos. Not all are unique as many images are shared multiple times. Approximately 16,200 (21.2%) of the still images were assessed as having been self-generated by their subject.

Around 50,000 people in the UK downloaded or shared online images of child abuse in 2012.

Explanation: Although it is clearly not possible to establish a precise figure, CEOP estimates that there were around 50,000 individuals in the UK involved in downloading and sharing indecent images of children during 2012.

At least 70,000 online images of child abuse were shared in the UK in 2012. 

Explanation: In 2012, CEOP received 8,000 reports of indecent images of children being shared, featuring 70,000 still images and videos. Not all are unique as many images are shared multiple times. 

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Read our research, reports and resources about child sexual exploitation including learning from case reviews and factsheet for schools. 

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