Four types of CSE social workers need to know about

CSE involves common characteristics, such as an imbalance of power, that can manifest in different ways

According to a new government definition, child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a form of child sexual abuse, and takes place

“When an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator.”

These common characteristics of CSE can manifest in different ways; there isn’t just one type of exploitation.

In Community Care Inform Children’s guide to the forms of CSE, Emilie Smeaton, research director of Paradigm Research, covers different types of perpetrators and the means through which children are exploited. Here, we give a quick snapshot of four different forms of CSE. Inform subscribers can read the full guide and access other resources on our CSE knowledge and practice hub.


This form of exploitation involves children being enticed, forced or coerced into sexual activity by other children. Peer-on-peer exploitation can take place without the involvement or adults, or can involve adults exploiting children and young people to exploit other children.

Older boyfriend or girlfriend

A child is groomed by an adult to believe that they are in a loving relationship. The adult may entice, coerce or force the child to have sex with them, and sometimes also with the adult’s friends or associates.

Organised or networked

In this form of CSE, children are passed through networks of perpetrators, sometimes over geographical distances and between different cities. They may be forced or coerced into sexual activity with multiple adults. They may also be used to recruit other children into the network.

Position of responsibility

As stated in the new definition, CSE involves an imbalance of power. Some perpetrators may be in positions of responsibility – such as teachers, religious leaders, sports coaches – and manipulate this in order to sexually exploit children.

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3 Responses to Four types of CSE social workers need to know about

  1. Pete Morgan March 9, 2017 at 1:11 pm #

    Very useful summary of the four different types of sexual exploitation, though I prefer the terminology of different ‘contexts’ rather than ‘types’, but this still perpetuates the idea that the sexual exploitation of children, namely those under 18 years of age, is qualitatively different, I almost say more heinous or important, than exactly the same exploitation of adults, particularly those with care and support needs. Oh for some joined up thinking, or even, dare I suggest, communication between the DH and the DE!

  2. Heather Smith March 28, 2017 at 11:04 am #

    Hello, good summary although I would prefer to see maybe it slightly adapted to include the forcing or coercion of a victim or victims to have sex or perform a sexual act on another within the Peer relationship ‘type’ as this can occur particularly in initiations into groups or gangs.

    Also, perhaps the ‘older boyfriend/girlfriend’ to read ‘innapropriate relationship’ as the boyfriend model is also used as a method in organised CSE.

    It is important to state that all the above can occur online as well as physically. Online CSE is increasing and children and young people who spend a lot of time online, who are vulnerable and unsupervised can be particularly at risk.

  3. Manzar iqbal March 30, 2017 at 1:44 pm #

    End of the day cse is child abuse and anyone involved in this sickening act must and should have ghe full weight of the law thrown at them

    Manzar Iqbal
    Youth professional worker