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Child exploitation

Child sexual exploitation – think boys

Close-up of a young woman, taken from waist-height, as she looks at her phone. Her face is not visible. Overlaid is text that says: "Spot the Signs Poster Hub".

Awareness of Child Exploitation (CE) has risen dramatically in recent years as the scale of the problem was unearthed in areas across the country. The issue has since been covered extensively on the news, in documentaries and TV dramas; but our teams find the early signs of exploitation are often still missed by the adults around a young victim.

For this reason, we have produced a series of posters that shine a light on this issue, and the ways to help a young person. The materials are most relevant for professionals who work with children, but are useful for anybody who wants to know more about Child Exploitation and Missing From Home.

This poster looks at the ways boys can be affected by child sexual exploitation, and the signs to look out for.

What is CSE?

Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is when an adult coerces or gives a child something in exchange for allowing sexual acts to be performed by or on them. This could be in person, online or on camera.

CSE can be very hard to spot. Sometimes young people themselves don’t realise what is happening. They may believe they are in a loving relationship. They may believe what they’re being asked to do is ‘normal’. If they do realise they are being abused, they may feel trapped. They may feel unable to tell anyone what is going on.

Child sexual exploitation can happen to boys as well as girls

Groomers and abusers may sometimes use different techniques to draw boys in, but the outcome is the same. Our response should be the same too, but there are a number of additional things to think about:

  • Boys are more likely to be criminalised for their behaviour.
  • Boys often find it more difficult to seek help because of the stigma associated with
    being an abuse victim.
  • Often adults miss the signs or child sexual exploitation in boys or put it down to teenage bad behaviour.

1 in 3 victims of CSE is a boy.

What to look out for

  • skipping school
  • staying out late or overnight
  • unexplained gifts or new possessions
  • using drugs or drinking alcohol
  • friendships or relationships with older adults
  • inappropriate or sexualised behaviour
  • being secretive
  • changes in appearance (clothes, hygiene etc.)
  • significant changes in mood or behaviour
  • youth offending behaviour run-ins with the police, or involvement in the youth justice system
  • becoming withdrawn or isolated
  • poor mental health e.g. self harm
  • excessive time spent on social media talking to ‘friends’ they haven’t met
  • recurrent STIs

If a boy you know has been acting out of character, could it be child sexual exploitation?