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Child Exploitation


This page has been endorsed by the York Youth Council


Child Exploitation is a type of abuse. When a child or young person is exploited they’re groomed by being given things, like gifts, drugs, money, status and affection. This is usually in exchange for performing sexual activities, known as Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE), or for carrying out a criminal activity, known as Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE).



wall child exploitation

Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) and County Lines


Child Criminal Exploitation happens when a person or group of people trick, persuade, bully or use their power over you to take part in criminal activity. The adults may take advantage of you by:

  • Offering you something you need or want
  • Threatening or using violence against the you

The adult exploiting you will often gain financially from the criminal activity. Sometimes you will not realise that you are being exploited.

‘County lines’ is the police term for urban gangs supplying drugs to suburban areas, market and coastal towns using dedicated mobile phone lines or “deal lines”. It is also known as 'going country'.  It involves child criminal exploitation (CCE) as gangs use children and vulnerable people to move drugs and money.

  • Spotting the signs of Criminal Exploitation:
  • Returning home late, staying out all night or going missing
  • Being found in areas away from home
  • Increasing drug use, or being found to have large amounts of drugs on them
  • Being secretive about who they are talking to and where they are going
  • Unexplained absences from school, college, training or work
  • Unexplained money, phone(s), clothes or jewellery Increasingly disruptive or aggressive behaviour
  • Using sexual, drug-related or violent language you wouldn’t expect them to know
  • Coming home with injuries or looking particularly dishevelled Having hotel cards or keys to unknown places 

'Billy's Story' 

This video created by Humberside Office for the Police and Crime Commissioner (who have commissioned a 'Not in our Community' campaign) highlights how easy it can be for an adult to trick you into being involved in selling drugs.


Child Sexual Exploitation

What is child sexual exploitation?

Sexual Exploitation is when someone uses something you need or want in order to get you involved in sexual activities. It can involve being forced, pressured, persuaded or tricked into sexual activity. It can involve exchanges of sexual activity for attention, accommodation, gifts, cigarettes or alcohol. Sexual Exploitation can happen to girls and boys.

It’s not OK for someone to make or manipulate you into doing sexual things for the benefit or enjoyment of others.

It is a form of sexual abuse and it is against the law.

These are some of the signs that sexual exploitation is taking place:

  • Offering you money or goods in exchange for sex
  • Stalking your online activities
  • Asking you to participate in non-contact sexual activities such as engaging in sexual conversations online or via mobile telephone
  • Asking you to take and share indecent images of yourself online or through a mobile telephone
  • Asking you to display sexualised behaviours or perform sexual acts that are recorded or shared live via webcam
  • Arranging to meet you for the purpose of sexually abusing you

Offenders of sexual exploitation may approach you on the street and gain your trust by offering you drugs, alcohol or gifts.

Offenders may try to make friends with you online through online chat rooms, social networking websites, email and mobile telephone messaging.

Offenders may convince you that you are in a relationship with them but they are in fact trying to gain your trust and this is called grooming.

'Becky's Story'

This video created by Humberside Office for the Police and Crime Commissioner (who have commissioned a 'Not in our Community' campaign) highlights how easy it can be for someone to befriend a child or young person and the dangers they can encounter. 

Spot the signs

Are you being sexually exploited?

It’s not OK for someone to:

  • Threaten to end your relationship if you don’t have sex
  • Ask or make you have sex with other people
  • Expect sex in return for food or a place to stay
  • Share drugs or alcohol with you in return for sexual acts
  • Threaten to stop being friends if you don’t perform sexual ‘dares’
  • Give you gifts or money in return for sexual acts
  • Ask you to take sexual photos of yourself or share them online or by text
  • Threaten to humiliate or share sexual images of you if you don’t carry out more sex acts

This isn’t a complete list, but if any of the scenarios sound familiar then you may have been sexually exploited, even if the person who did it was a friend or boyfriend. If you are under 18, this behaviour towards you is against the law. No one is allowed to do these things to you and you should get help or report it.

You should also read this list of ways to help you and your friends keep safe.

Keep safe

Barnardo’s produced some ‘keep safe’ tips as part of their ‘Real Love Rocks‘ work with schools. They have kindly let us recreate them here.

  1. Stick with mates a similar age to you – a good mate won’t ask you to do stuff you’re uncomfortable with.
  2. If you feel you can’t say no, ask yourself: ‘Am I in a safe situation?’
  3. If someone offers you something for free, ask what they want in return.
  4. Listen to your body – a fast, pounding heartbeat and churning stomach are signs you feel unsafe.
  5. Be careful what personal details – including photos – you give out online, by phone, or in real life.
  6. Make sure you know where you are going and how to get home. Have credit and charge on your phone.
  7. Make sure someone you trust always knows where you are.
  8. Drinking and taking drugs can make you unaware of unsafe situations and you can become a target for people who may hurt you.

Worried About A Friend or Do You Need Help?

  • Think you or a friend might have been exploited?
  • Want some advice or someone to talk to?
  • Worried about your child or a young person in your care?

It’s OK to speak to someone. Exploitation is never your fault, even if you went along with things at first. Abusers are very clever in the way they manipulate young people.

Speak to someone

If you think that you or someone else is being sexually abused or exploited please speak to someone. This could someone you trust like you teacher or pastoral lead at school. For support or if you’re concerned that a child has been sexually abused please contact the NSPCC 24 hour helpline Tel: 0808 800 5000 or email: If a child is at immediate risk of harm call 999.

What happens when you say...

Speaking up about sexual abuse or exploitation can be upsetting and scary. We understand that you want the abuse to stop. We also understand that you might be worried about what might happen after you tell somebody. This is normal and it’s okay to feel like this. 

If you think you or a friend is being exploited in any way, you can:

Call York MASH on 01904 551900 (9-5pm) after hours 01609 780780 or email

Call the Police - if there is immediate danger call 999

Call Childline - Phone Number: 0800 11 11. Free, confidential service and 24 hours.

If you prefer to message anonymously, both these websites have online forms to allow you to pass on information about a crime:


 Fearless logo    Crime Stoppers banner


What happens when I say...

Speaking up about sexual abuse or exploitation can be upsetting and scary. We understand that you want the abuse to stop. We also understand that you might be worried about what might happen after you tell somebody. This is normal and it’s okay to feel like this. 

Some things you might be worried about:

  • what people might think
  • upsetting a parent or carer
  • making the abuse worse for yourself or a brother or sister
  • getting the person who’s abusing you into trouble
  • breaking up the family.

The most important thing is that you are safe and you feel like you can talk to somebody. We don’t want you to go through this on your own.

What happens if I tell a teacher, police officer or doctor?

If you decide to report the abuse to a teacher, police officer or doctor they have a duty to report it to a social worker. A social worker’s job is to talk with you and your family to see what the best way to keep you safe is. Lots of young people worry that they will ‘take you away’ or ‘break up the family’ – but they want to make things better for you, not worse. If they can, they will always try and sort things out in the family before they think about moving anyone out of the house.

Depending on the information they have and whether they know of your family already, a social worker may do a ‘safety check’ within seven days. This usually means a social worker coming round to speak to you and your parent or carer. If the abuse is happening at home, you can tell a teacher that you’re afraid and would prefer to speak to a social worker at school instead. You could also try and plan a bit of what you want to say before you talk to them. If you have any evidence then it’s a good idea to give them that too.

The advice on this page has been provided by Childline. Childline have produced a video which shows you what happens if you contact Childline about sexual abuse.

Real stories

The case studies on these pages are all based on the real stories of real victims from across the UK. Names and other information has been changed to protect identities.



‘CSE and Me’ – Barnardo’s help young victims of child sexual exploitation tell their stories

The young people in the video were all supported by Project Phoenix as victims of child sexual exploitation. As part of that support they received a service from Barnardo’s. In the video you will hear the young victims talking about going missing from home and how they were groomed for sexual exploitation.


David's story

Emma's story

Useful Links

The following organisations can also help you and give you free confidential advice:

 Disrespect Nobody logo    
Disrespect Nobody - Home Office website which provides information and guidance on healthy relationships, and explains what is sexting, consent, and rape.    


 Rape Crisis banner
Rape Crisis - help if you’ve experienced rape, child sexual abuse or any kind of sexual violence details of local Rape Crisis services; information about sexual violence for survivors, people supporting survivors.


 Respect Not Fear banner  
Respect not Fear - a website providing information and guidance on healthy relationships, also contains stories and games.  


The Safety Net is a project to prevent the exploitation of people with learning disabilities by those claiming to be their friends, and aimed to deal with issues around mate crime.    



 Would You app        Wud U? lets you find out how some young people end up being sexual exploited. You can think about the decisions you would make if you were in the same situation, and get advice about your decisions. 



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