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Child abuse

Child sexual exploitation information for professionals

Child Sexual Exploitation is a form of child abuse. It is not a specific criminal offence but the term encompasses a range of different forms of serious criminal conduct and a number of individual offences.

The Government produced this definition and guidance for CSE in February 2017.

Children and young people in Devon are at risk of and are victims of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE). It can happen to anyone, regardless of their gender, age, ethnicity or background and it happens in all parts of the country, not just urban areas such as large towns and cities, but in rural villages and coastal areas too, just like Devon.

Those being abused may not recognise what is happening because their abuser makes them think they are in a relationship and are special. CSE can also happen as a result of violence, threats or intimidation. Therefore it is important that professionals don’t rely on the child or young person disclosing their abuse in order to identify that CSE is taking place.

Further information for professionals, including risks, indicators and actions to be taken are available in the CSE section of the Devon Children and Families Partnership Procedures Manual.

Do you know a child at risk of sexual exploitation in Devon?

If you suspect a child is in immediate danger you should call the Police on 999.

If you have significant safeguarding concerns about child, please discuss them with your designated Safeguarding Lead and contact the MASH on 0345 1551071.

Concerns about a child or young person at risk of sexual exploitation, people who may sexually exploit children and related locations of concern should be submitted to the MACSE.

Missing and Child Sexual Exploitation Meeting (MACSE)

The MACSE is a multi-agency professional meeting. It is aimed at preventing children and young people from being sexually exploited by working together to gather, share and understand information and intelligence in order to identify potential risks and for agencies to use their resources to protect the child or young person.

They also discuss adults and young people who may be at risk of committing child sexual exploitation and related locations of concern that might be being used for the grooming or sexual exploitation of children, for example a private dwelling, car park, or hotel.

When to make a MACSE submission

If you have a CSE concern about a child or young person that does not meet the Child Protection threshold complete the ‘Devon CSE Risk Assessment Tool’ and send it to the MACSE email box  and the Devon and Cornwall Police central safeguarding team intelligence email box to identify if any other agency has information relevant to the case.

When a child or young person is open to Children’s Social Work the CSE risks need to be managed through their multi-agency plan so professionals should liaise with the child’s social worker about their concerns. They do not need to be brought to MACSE unless they are seeking to share or gather additional information on networks, locations or persons of concern.

You should also make a MACSE submission if you have a concern that someone may be involved in the grooming or sexual exploitation of children or young people or you suspect that a location is being used for the grooming or sexual exploitation of children. Complete the ‘Person/ Location of CSE Concern Form’ and send it to the MACSE email box and the Devon and Cornwall Police central safeguarding team intelligence email box.

Normal Child Protection procedures apply and should not be delayed or stopped due to the MACSE process.

How to make a MACSE submission

You can make a MACSE submission by completing the ‘Devon CSE Risk Assessment Tool’ and sending it to the MACSE email box and the Devon and Cornwall Police central safeguarding team intelligence email box.

This tool helps all professionals working with children identify those at risk of sexual exploitation. It provides a guide for what to look for and what actions should be taken depending on the risk identified.

If your concern relates to a child and you are submitting a ‘Devon CSE Risk Assessment Tool’ where there are also concerns about a suspected perpetrator or location being used for the grooming or sexual exploitation of children you must submit a separate ‘Person/ Location of CSE Concern Form’.

The professional who has reported a CSE concern in relation to a child at risk is expected to attend the MACSE meeting. If they are unable to attend, they are expected to send a representative. Only in extenuating circumstances will a child be discussed without anyone representing them.

If you need help completing the assessment and knowing what action to take, you can call the MASH on 0345 155 1071 and request advice from the REACH team (Reducing Exploitation and Absence from Care and Home). Your call will be taken by a Customer Services Advisor who will forward your details and enquiry to the REACH team so that they can respond.

How can children be sexually exploited?

Children can be sexually exploited in many different ways, to help you understand and recognise what might be going on here are a few models that you should be aware of:

Inappropriate relationship
The young person is in a relationship with an older partner who exerts a great deal of influence and control over them due to an imbalance of power. The young person is likely to believe they are in a serious adult relationship and not recognise its exploitative nature.

Peer exploitation
The young person is in a relationship with another young person who is coercing them into some form of sexual activity with their friends. Based on national and local analysis, the majority of child sexual exploitation in Devon is perpetrated by the peer groups of the victims and over half of those that sexually exploit children are under 18 themselves.

Organised exploitation
The young people (often connected) are passed through networks, possibly over geographical distances, between towns and cities where they may be forced /coerced into sexual activity with multiple people. Often this occurs at ‘sex parties’, and young people who are involved may be used as agents to recruit others into the network.

Online Exploitation
Any of the above models may involve online exploitation where the young person shares sexual images or videos or is coerced into carrying out sexual acts via web-cam. According to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre most child sexual exploitation offences take place online. Analysis by the centre reveals that 13 and 14 year olds represent the largest single victim group of online exploitation.

Abusers and victims are known to come from a variety of ethnic and cultural backgrounds. CSE is not restricted to British Pakistani Muslim males or white British girls, despite media coverage of high profile cases.

Boys and young men can also be victims of CSE, however they may be less likely to disclose offences or seek support, often due to stigma, prejudice or embarrassment or the fear that they will not be believed

Women can be abusers too. They may use different grooming methods but are known to target both boys and girls.

Violence, coercion and intimidation are common in child sexual exploitation cases as many abusers target vulnerable young people. Their vulnerability is often due to economic or physical circumstances that leave them with few choices, however, it is important to remember any child may be targeted so it is important to help them keep safe.

Warning signs

CSE is not always easy to spot as the warning signs can often be confused with other difficulties young people can experience. These are some of the main indicators of CSE (although it is not an exhaustive list):

  • Going missing or absent for periods of time, or regularly returning home late without reasonable explanation.
  • Regularly missing school.
  • Being secretive about where they are and who they are with.
  • Secretive use of the internet.
  • Being in contact with older people online that are not part of their usual peer network.
  • Having unexplained new possessions, for example, a mobile phone.
  • Having older boyfriends or girlfriends.
  • Isolation from peer group, family and friends.
  • Drug and alcohol misuse.
  • Displaying inappropriate sexualised behaviour, including how they dress.
  • Mood swings or changes in behaviour.
  • Changes in physical appearance such as weight loss or appearing tired all of the time.
  • Having unexplained injuries.
  • Frequent sexually transmitted infections or unwanted pregnancies.


PACE (Parents against Child Sexual Abuse) have created a free online learning module about the signs and symptoms as well as the impact of CSE. It also gives advice on what to do when you think a child might be at risk of CSE.


If you are concerned that a child is being abused please call

0345 155 1071

or email

If it’s an emergency call 999

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