Sexual Violence and Child Sexual Exploitation

Sexual Violence and Child Sexual Exploitation

Rape and Sexual Assault

A sexual assault is any sexual act that a person did not consent to, or is forced into against their will. It is a form of sexual violence and includes rape (an assault involving penetration of the vagina, anus or mouth), or other sexual offences, such as groping, forced kissing, child sexual abuse or the torture of a person in a sexual manner.

All cases of rape or sexual assault will be different. It is not uncommon for a victim of sexual assault to have no physical injuries or signs of their assault. But sexual assault is still a crime and can be reported to the police in the same way as other crimes. In all cases officers should do their best to minimise trauma and offer support for as long as a victim would like, including offering support from other agencies.

The Crime Survey for England and Wales for the year ending March 2018 showed that police recorded 150,732 sexual offences, encompassing rape (53,977 cases) and sexual assault, and also sexual activity with children.

Most sexual assaults are carried out by someone known to the victim. This could be a partner, former partner, relative, friend or colleague. The assault may happen in many places, but is usually in the victim's home or the home of the alleged perpetrator (the person carrying out the assault).

Child Sexual Exploitation 

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a form of child sexual abuse. It occurs where 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. The victim may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology.

Violence, coercion and intimidation are common. Involvement in exploitative relationships is characterised by the child’s or young person’s limited availability of choice, as a result of their social, economic or emotional vulnerability.

A common feature of CSE is that the child or young person does not recognise the coercive nature of the relationship and does not see themselves as a victim of exploitation.

Officers should be aware of the perception that a young person is troublesome, rather than troubled, can affect their credibility and influence whether that individual seeks help. It can also make them fiercely resistant to offers of support. 

Very Brief Intervention


Sexual Violence and Child Sexual Exploitation

Rape and Sexual Assault

For police first responders to a report of rape or sexual assault your priorities are to make anyone you identify as vulnerable, safe and begin an investigation into the report of rape and sexual assault.

As the first responder, you are likely to hear the victim’s account first. Whether the report is about something that is recent or non-recent, the victim may still be traumatised. Your manner with the victim will be important for an appropriate and empathetic response. 

There are many reasons why victims don’t report or delay reporting rape or sexual assault. It can be because they fear they will not be believed or will be blamed or judged for their actions, or they fear repercussions from the suspect or family for reporting. In all cases, it is important to:

  • Ensure the victim‚Äôs safety, understanding any risk posed by the perpetrator to the victim or other people

Do you feel you are still in danger? Do you have a safe place to go? 

Can we call someone for you who can support you?

  • Identify any immediate medical needs

Do you need medical attention?

  • Initiate the investigation and consider evidence preservation from the outset
  • Reassure the victim that they have done the right thing in coming forward and reporting
  • Be non-judgemental
  • Show empathy and sensitivity
  • Maintain impartiality
  • Identify if an interpreter or registered intermediary is required
  • Speak to the victim in an environment in which they are comfortable
  • Understand that rape and sexual offences in intimate/ex-intimate partner relationships may occur as part of a pattern of coercive or controlling behaviour or stalking and seek evidence connected with either of these offences
  • Remember that many victims may be under the age of 18 and are therefore still children and need to be dealt with in accordance with current Working Together to Safeguard Children guidance and APP on child abuse investigation.

Child Sexual Exploitation 

If a child reports, following a conversation you have initiated or otherwise, that they are being abused and neglected you should:

  • Ensure the victim‚Äôs safety, understanding any risk posed by the perpetrator to the victim or other people
  • Identify any immediate medical needs
  • Listen to them
  • Take their allegation seriously
  • Reassure them that you will take action to keep them safe.
  • At all times, you should explain to the child the action that you are taking.
  • It is important to maintain confidentiality, but you should not promise that you won‚Äôt tell anyone, as you may need to do so in order to protect the child.

You will need to decide the most appropriate action to take, depending on the circumstances of the case, the seriousness of the child’s allegation and the local multi-agency safeguarding arrangements in place. You should always adhere to the specific guidance from your particular police force.

Spotting the signs of Child Sexual Exploitation

Officers should familiarise themselves with the most common warning signs of CSE and recognise that a victim does not have to exhibit all of the warning signs to be a victim of sexual exploitation. Concerns should be heightened if the number of warning signs increases.

  • Going missing for periods of time or regularly returning home late
  • Skipping school or being disruptive in class
  • Appearing with unexplained gifts or possessions that can‚Äôt be accounted for
  • Experiencing health problems that may indicate a sexually transmitted infection
  • Having mood swings and changes in temperament
  • Using drugs and/or alcohol
  • Displaying inappropriate sexualised behaviour, such as over-familiarity with strangers, dressing in a sexualised manner or sending sexualised images by mobile phone ("sexting")
  • They may also show signs of unexplained physical harm, such as bruising and cigarette burns


Once you have established the particular circumstances and needs of the individual what can you do to help?

Please click on regional police force links at the bottom of the page for guidance and information about how you may assist and support victims of sexual violence and child sexual exploitation locally.

Rape and Sexual Assault 

College of Policing guidance about how to progress a report of Sexual Assault:

Child Sexual Exploitation 

Child Sexual Exploitation is not a specific criminal offence. It encompasses a range of different forms of serious criminal conduct and a number of individual offences.

In assessing whether a child or young person is a victim, or at risk of becoming a victim, of sexual exploitation, careful consideration should be given to the following:

  • a child under the age of 13 is not legally capable of consenting to sex (it is statutory rape) or any other type of sexual touching
  • sexual activity with a child under 16 is¬†an offence
  • it is an offence for a person to have a sexual relationship with a 16 or 17-year-old if they hold a position of trust or authority in relation to them
  • where sexual activity with a 16 or 17-year-old does not result in an offence being committed, it may still result in harm or the likelihood of harm being suffered
  • non-consensual sex is rape, whatever the age of the victim
  • if the victim is incapacitated through drink or drugs, or the victim, or his or her family, has been subjected to violence or the threat of it, they cannot be considered to have given true consent and, therefore, offences may have been committed
  • CSE¬†is an issue for all children under the age of 18 years and not limited to those in a specific age group.

CSE investigations require a proactive approach to explore the nature and patterns of sexual exploitation locally, and to share information with partner agencies about those at risk and potential offenders.


National Support Services 

Rape and Sexual Assault 

Rape Crisis England and wales

Tel: 0808 802 9999. Open between12.00-14.30 and 19.00-21.30 every day of the year

National Women’s Aid England - Information about support services for women experiencing domestic violence.

Tel: 0117 944 4411 | 24-hour domestic violence helpline: 0808 2000 247 

Revenge Porn Helpline

UK service supporting adults (aged 18+) who are experiencing intimate image abuse, also known as, revenge porn. Self-referral and Professional referral - signposting only

Tel: 0345 6000 459 Monday to Friday (excluding bank holidays) - 10:00 to 16:00



The Survivors Trust - Support for victims/survivors of rape, sexual violence and childhood sexual abuse. working with women, men and children.

Tel: 08088 010 818. Mon - Fri 10am-8:30pm, Sat 10am-12:30pm, 1:30pm-4:30pm, 6pm-8:30pm, Sun 1:30pm-4:30pm, 6pm-8:30pm

Safeline - National helpline to support male victims of rape and sexual abuse.

Tel: 0808 800 5005. Open office hours except Weds and Sundays.

Child Sexual Exploitation 

The Truth Project

Offer victims and survivors of child sexual abuse the chance to share their experiences in a safe place. Self-referral and Professional referral - signposting only

Tel: 0800 9171000 Open weekdays 9am-5pm



Childline - Free and confidential 24hr helpline for children

Tel: 0800 1111

NSPCC - Trained professionals who can provide expert advice and support when there is concern about the welfare of a child

Tel: 0808 800 5000 Weekday 8.00am-10.00pm and Weekends 9.00am-6.00pm

Barnardo‚Äôs ‚Äď Cut them free campaign. A campaign targeted at tackling CSE.

Tel: 01332 585371

National Helpline for male victims of sexual exploitation 

Tel: 07808 863 662

CEOP - A law enforcement agency providing support and advice for children, adults or teachers about keeping children safe from sexual abuse and grooming online. Submit a report online

Crimestoppers - An independent crime-fighting charity in the UK allows people to call or pass on  information about crime anonymously.

Tel: 0800 555 111


Local Support and Contact Details