Simply put, child sexual exploitation involves a young person under the age of 18 being manipulated, forced, pressurised or coerced into taking part in a sexual act in exchange for something.

 

Less simple however is that in many cases this abuse will begin as part of a seemingly healthy relationship. The young person will see the offender as a friend, sometimes as their boyfriend or girlfriend.

At first, the offender may go out of their way to make the young person feel liked and wanted – known as ‘grooming’. They’ll treat their victim as an adult, offering affection and attention, buying them alcohol, drugs or food, or giving them money, gifts or somewhere to stay.

Over time though, the offender may become controlling towards their victim. They might try to come between them and their family and friends, and make them do what they want them to do instead. They may even become threatening or violent to get their way.

Without the victim realising how it has happened, they may find themselves being forced or pressurised into doing things they don’t want to do. This could be sending naked photos or videos of themselves to someone online or by smartphone. Or it could be kissing, touching or having sex with one or more people.