What is CSE?

Child Sexual Exploitation

The United Nations says...

Child sexual exploitation is the abuse of a child where some form of remuneration is involved whereby the perpetrators benefit – monetarily, socially, politically, etc. Exploitation constitutes a form of coercion and violence, detrimental to the child’s physical and mental health, development, and education.”

(United Nations, 2015)

Can be characterised by the lack of choices – social, emotional, economic, etc.


Victims initially often think they are in control & making choices.


Victims can frequently be linked to one another.

Child Sexual Exploitation could happen to:

  • Potentially any young person
  • Looked after young people
  • Young people with learning or physical disabilities
  • Homeless or missing young people
  • Predisposed vulnerability
  • Young people with mental health issues
  • Young people who use drugs & alcohol

Global Context

Worldwide, over 10 million children & young people are being sexually exploited.

Extensive research demonstrates that CSE is not just a Third World problem.

Global research indicates that any child or young person is at risk of sexual exploitation regardless of affluence, age or gender.

In 2012, the UK government estimated that CSE cost its economy AUD $5.1 billion.

Australian Context

‚ÄčLack of comprehensive current data and reasearch - last significant piece commissioned by the Federal Government was in 1998. (Grant, David & Grabosky, 2001)

Royal Commission into Institutional Response to Child Sexual Abuse (2016) - Only highlights 2 recommendations relating specifically to Child Sexual Exploitation.

CSE is not categorised separately in child protection procedures.

This means data is often:
- missing or incomplete
- concealed in other categories of abuse or crime unreported.

What does CSE look like?

Typical models of CSE


Usually involves one abuser who has inappropriate power – physical, emotional, financial, etc. 
The young person may believe they have a genuine friendship or loving relationship with their abuser. 
This form of exploitation will often be used to target young people where there is a significant absence of a positive nurturing adult in the young person’s life. 


Victims are trafficked through criminal networks – often between towns & cities.
The young person is forced or coerced into sex with multiple individuals.  Young people who are victims themselves will often be used to recruit new victims.
This type of exploitation views children as a commodity and can involve the buying & selling of young people. Case studies in Australia have seen young people ‘tagged’ with a tattoo to denote who they belong to. 


The abuser is the same age or close in age.
Everyone directly involved is normally under 18.
Schools, youth clubs, sports clubs tend to be more prevalent locations used.
This form of exploitation can often occur in ‘gang’ based contexts. 


Groom victims by striking up a normal relationship with a young person. Shower the victim with gifts and affection. Often meet the victim in public places, such as shopping centres, fast food outlets and hotels.
Develop the relationship in a seemingly consensual manner before becoming physically, sexually and emotionally abusive. Require victims to attend parties and sleep with multiple individuals.
Threaten victims with violence if they attempt to seek help. Often require the victim to introduce other young people as potential new victims. 

Puppet on a string: The urgent need to cut young people free from sexual exploitation Barnardo's (2011).

For more information on CSE



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