Three ways CSE can affect children

Children and young adults who have experienced sexual exploitation may face negative impacts in all areas of their lives

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Child sexual exploitation (CSE) has rarely been out of the news over the past few years. From the release of Professor Alexis Jay’s report into CSE in Rotherham in 2014, to the recent trials in Newcastle, it is clear that social workers and other professionals in every area of the UK must be well-informed about sexual exploitation.

Children and young adults who have experienced sexual exploitation may face negative impacts in all areas of their lives. Physical and mental health, cognitive development and relationships can all be affected, and the impact can be life-long.

In a guide for Community Care Inform Children, Emilie Smeaton, research director of Paradigm Research, covers the different ways that experiencing sexual exploitation can affect children. Inform subscribers can read the full guide and other resources in the CSE knowledge and practice hub. This excerpt from Smeaton’s guide covers three impacts CSE can have.


Children who experience CSE often exhibit risky behaviours such as offending, running away, substance misuse and general anti-social behaviour. They may bully and exhibit controlling behaviour towards others and situations. Children may also exhibit violent behaviour towards others including adults who care for them. These behaviours may result from children and young people ‘acting out’ the abuse they experience but may also be encouraged or forced by perpetrators of CSE.

Children’s violent behaviour may also be as a result of fear from threats made by perpetrators of CSE.


Truancy and exclusion from school are commonly experienced by children who experience CSE. Exclusion is often experienced as a consequence of adopted behaviours as a result of experiencing CSE. If still attending school, a child who is experiencing CSE may cease to engage with school and/or exhibit disruptive behaviour.

Disengagement from education can also occur because of the demands of perpetrators of CSE. Children who experience CSE often become detached from education, and do not gain qualifications that provide entry into further education, training and work, and are therefore placed at significant disadvantage.


Children who experience CSE can develop difficulties in forming relationships with others, may find it difficult to trust others as a result of abuse, and may form dysfunctional relationships. Children’s experiences of CSE can also impact negatively on relationships with family members.

A child having to leave their local area as a result of experiencing CSE can lead to the child becoming isolated from family and friends and to family breakdown.

Register now for Community Care Live London for two days of free and essential learning to boost your CPD, sharpen your legal knowledge and improve your practice, on 26-27 September.

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