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What is Child Exploitation?

Exploitation includes sexual, criminal (including county lines), modern slavery and online. Children who are exploited usually do not recognise the coercive nature of the relationship or see themselves as a victim. Exploitation is not the child's fault. Abusers are very clever in the way they manipulate young people.


The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the fight against exploitation. Exploitation methods have changed/become more hidden.


Spot the signs of exploitation


Criminal Exploitation 


Criminal Exploitation covers gang crime and county lines and includes children coerced or manipulated into criminal activity such as involvement in cannabis farms or theft. A gang may claim control over territory in a community, and engaging either individually or collectively in violent behaviour or other types of criminal activity. County lines is when gangs and organised crime networks groom and exploit children to sell drugs. They may make them travel across counties, and they use dedicated mobile phone ‘lines’ to supply drugs.


Safeguarding Vulnerable Young People on Public Transport (Operation Henderson) - Operation Henderson, is a joint initiative being run by the Essex Safeguarding Children Board and partners. It aims to raise awareness of the vulnerability of young people to exploitation and abuse at stations and transport networks in parts of Essex. A young person may use a station or form of public transport in an attempt to disappear. Children run away for a number of reasons, on most occasions they return home safely. What to do if your child is missing.


Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)


Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) is a type of sexual abuse, when a child is made or tricked into doing something sexual sometimes receiving something in return like love, affection, money, drugs or alcohol. Sexual abuse can include lots of things like rape and sexual assault, sexual harassment,  online grooming and domestic abuse or violence.

Examples of sexual abuse include:

Facts about sexual abuse:


Trafficking/modern slavery


Trafficking is where children and young people are tricked, forced or persuaded to leave their homes and are moved or transported and then exploited, forced to work or sold. It can happen to anyone. A child could only be taken next door or down the road – it’s still classed as trafficking.


Young people who are being trafficked/exploited often use public transport (trains, buses and taxis) to get around. Find out more about safeguarding young people on public transport and how to spot the signs of exploitation.


How can I support my child?


You can discuss the differences between healthy and unhealthy relationships with your children, this is really important in helping highlight potential risks to them. 


There are also practical steps you can take, such as:



Report Concerns


The Police: If you have any intelligence or wish to report concerns please call 101. If you think a child or young person is in immediate danger always call 999.


British Transport Police can be contacted by phone on 0800 40 50 40 or members of the public can report a crime or an incident that occurred on your train via text 61016.


Crimestoppers You can report concerns anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or



Advice and Support


Stop It Now! Child sexual abuse helpline - The Lucy Faithfull Foundation

This is a helpline for anyone worried about their own, or another person’s (adult or child) sexual behaviour or sexual interests. 


PACE - Parents Against Child Exploitation


Say Something if you See Something


Essex Police


Crimestoppers - 0800 555 111