Report online or call us on 101. Always call 999 in an emergency.

Child Sexual Exploitation is happening in Sussex

Child Sexual Exploitation (usually referred to as CSE) is when anyone under the age of 18 is encouraged, forced or manipulated into sexual acts, often in exchange for something.

Many people have heard about CSE happening in other parts of the country but find it hard to believe it's happening in their own area. The truth is that CSE is happening in Sussex and we all need to know about it. Being aware of it is the first step towards putting a stop to it.

Everyone has a duty to act if they suspect a child is being sexually exploited.

Together we can #StopCSE.

Hotels and B&Bs are in a unique position to help

Evidence shows that B&Bs and hotels are often used as locations to meet, groom and abuse children (both girls and boys). So it’s not just a good idea for people in this service industry to be able to spot the signs of CSE, it’s their responsibility.

Exploited children are almost always too terrified and ashamed to ask for help themselves. Receptionists, managers and housekeepers are in a unique position to notice when someone or something seems suspicious or all may not be right with young guests. By passing their concerns on to the police, they could potentially save a child from the nightmare of CSE.

“I just had a feeling that something was wrong.”

Sometimes that’s all it takes. A little piece of information from you could help us build the bigger picture.

Trust your instinct. If you're concerned, we want to hear from you.

It's never the child's fault

CSE is a crime that can affect any child, anytime, anywhere, regardless of their social or ethnic background. CSE can be carried out by individuals, by street gangs or by groups.  It can be motivated by money or by sexual gratification. But in all cases, there is an imbalance of power - vulnerable children are controlled and abused by adults or by other children.

The grooming process

Perpetrators gain control over children by grooming them, this can be in person, via mobiles or online, offering excitement, drugs, alcohol, gifts and affection. At first, this control may take the guise of 'romance' or 'friendship'.

But once a child does something - even something really small - that they know they might get 'in trouble' for, they become vulnerable to blackmail. As the exploitation gets worse, terrifying threats and violence may be used to keep children compliant. They are sexually exploited not just by the original perpetrators but often by many other abusers.

It's a trap

Exploited children are trapped because they often believe the abuse is their own fault - they fear they will be blamed or punished if they tell anyone what is happening. They are ashamed of what they are forced to do and are scared they will not be believed.

In many cases, children believe they are in a loving relationship with their exploiter. What's more the perpetrator will do everything they can to isolate children further by convincing them that their families do not really understand or love them.

What to look out for (in the daytime as well as the night)

Young guests (could be either girls or boys) under the age of 18, who…

  • are taken into a hotel room by one or more adults who do not seem to be family members
  • are staying in a hotel room which is visited or requested by a number of additional adults
  • get a taxi to a hotel or other venue to meet adults who do not seem to be family members
  • stay out late with older adults who do not seem to be family members
  • are bought alcoholic drinks by adults although the young person is already intoxicated
  • are in the company of adults who are known or suspected of being involved in adult prostitution
  • are being bought food or drinks by an older adult whom they seem to see as a boyfriend / girlfriend
  • seem to be involved in sexual activity with one or more adults who is significantly older than they are
  • seem to be involved in sexual activity even though you know or suspect they are under 16

Adult guests who…

  • try to hide the fact that they are with a young person or seem secretive
  • are reluctant to use a credit card and prefer to pay cash
  • ask for an isolated room or don’t want the room cleaned or visited
  • check in under a different name to the booking
  • walk in or book at the last minute
  • enter and leave regularly at unusual times
  • arrive and ask for a room number but don’t know the name of the person staying there
  • have no luggage or ID

In a room where under 18s are staying…

  • a pre-paid bar tab
  • numerous adults and young people coming and going
  • use of porn channels
  • lots of condoms and condom wrappers
  • drug paraphernalia (syringes, wraps, pipes, spoons, plastic bags, etc) and evidence of excessive alcohol consumption


What to do

Make a note of your information and call the police on 101 – or 999 if you believe the young person could be in immediate danger.  Say you are concerned about possible CSE and quote Operation Kite, which is the Sussex Police commitment to tackling this type of crime.

Don’t hesitate. Your information, however small it may seem, can help us build a bigger picture.

You should also:

  • raise your concerns immediately with your manager or other senior staff, who may have specific procedures for child protection concerns
  • let young people know how to get help, for example by putting up information about children’s helplines or local services
  • tell the police and your local council about any general concerns in relation to CSE.

Please watch and share – Barnardos Nightwatch video


If you are a parent or carer you’ll find more information about keeping children safe from CSE here.