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Myth: “It only happens in large towns and cities.”

Reality: CSE can and does happen in all parts of the country, in rural and coastal areas as well as towns and cities. Children can also be transported (trafficked) between towns, cities, villages etc., for the purpose of being sexually exploited.

Myth: “It only happens to girls.”

Reality: Boys are also victims of CSE. However, they may be less likely to tell anyone because of the stigma of being a male victim, and the fear that they will not be believed.

The BLAST Project is the UK’s leading male only sexual exploitation service supporting and working solely with boys and young men who have experienced, are experiencing or are at risk of experiencing child sexual exploitation (CSE).

My New Friend - The Grooming and Sexual Exploitation of Boys and Young Men

Myth: “It is only perpetrated by men.”

Reality: There is evidence that women can be perpetrators of this crime too. They may use different grooming methods but are known to target both boys and girls.

Myth: “It only happens to children in care.”

Reality: The majority of victims of CSE (80%) are living at home. However, children in care can be particularly vulnerable.

Myth: “It is always adults abusing children.”

Reality: Child-on-child sexual exploitation happens too - for example, children are sometimes used to 'recruit' others, by inviting them to locations for parties where they will then be introduced to adults or forced to perform sexual acts on adults.

Myth: “Parents should know what is happening and should be able to stop it.”

Reality: Parents may not be able to identify what is happening: they may suspect that something is not right but not be able to stop it due to the perpetrator's control and threats.

Myth: “Children are either victims or perpetrators.”

Reality: Around 6% of victims are also perpetrators. But although children may appear to be willing accomplices in the abuse of other children, this is because they are themselves controlled by an abuser.

Myth: “It only happens in certain ethnic/cultural communities.”

Reality: In spite of what we have seen in the media about high profile cases, both perpetrators and victims can come from a variety of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. But research shows that the majority of known perpetrators in the UK are lone white males.

Myth: “Under 18s can sell themselves for sex if they want, especially if they are over 16.”

Reality: A child cannot consent to their own abuse. Firstly, the law sets down 16 as the age of consent to any form of sexual activity. Secondly, any child under 18 cannot consent to being trafficked for the purposes of exploitation. Thirdly, regardless of age, a person's ability to consent may be affected by a range of other issues including influence of drugs, threats of violence, grooming, and a power imbalance between victim and perpetrators. This is why a 16 or 17 year-old can be sexually exploited even though they are old enough to consent to sexual activity.

Myth: “If it happens online, it is not CSE.”

Reality: If a child is being manipulated or forced into taking part in sexual activity, it is CSE, even if it takes place online.

Myth: Street gangs protect ‘their own’. Child sexual exploitation is not an issue within gang culture.

Reality: The extent of sexual exploitation of young women and young men in gang-affected neighbourhoods is hidden behind the apparent "normalisation" of sexual violence, the fear of reprisal following disclosure of violence and a belief amongst young people that involvement in criminal activity negates their right to protection from the state.

North American studies of girls in gang-affected neighbourhoods suggest that the gang appears to offer a way out of and protection from, difficult family situations. This is called the "Seduction Model" where the gang appears to offer inclusion, affection and protection.

These studies show that gang membership may be the “rational choice” in the face of the limited options and opportunities available to girls and young women.

Girls and young women engage in criminal activities to maintain status. If they lose status, they are vulnerable to assault and sexual exploitation by gang members, sometimes with the active support of their boyfriends. (http://www.gscb.org.uk)

If you have concerns about child sexual exploitation: 

Call Police on 101 

If you or a young person you care about is in immediate danger: 

Dial 999

If you are concerned about a child in Essex, call Family Operations Hub (Social Care): 

0345 603 7627 or 

0845 606 1212 (out of hours)

To report anonymously, call: 

For concerns about online sexual exploitation:

CSE Toolbox

For professionals who work with children, young people and families, when they have concerns about child sexual exploitation

SET (Southend, Essex and Thurrock) CSE Toolbox 

(This includes access to the CSE Risk & Vulnerabilities Assessment)