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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.

Taxi drivers are in a unique position to help

Evidence shows that taxis are often used to transport children (both girls and boys) between hotels, pubs and other places where they are exploited. So it’s not just a good idea for taxi drivers to be able to spot the signs of CSE, it’s their responsibility.

Exploited children are usually too terrified and ashamed to ask for help themselves. Taxi drivers are in a unique position to notice when all may not be right with passengers in their vehicle, pass their concerns on to the police – and potentially save a child from the nightmare of CSE.

“I had a gut 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 day as well as the night)

  • Young people (both girls and boys) being collected and taken to hotels/b&bs/parties at odd times
  • Young people being picked up from other cars
  • Young passengers who look worried, frightened or distressed in the company of adults
  • Young passengers who are in a vulnerable state due to excessive drink or drugs, and who don’t know where they are going, accompanied by adults
  • Young passengers being dropped off at any location that causes you concern.
  • Frequent suspicious activity in the same place
  • Men who regularly request taxi rides to and from location – taking young people with them.
  • Young passengers going to A&E or clinics accompanied by someone who is not a parent

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.

Information to share

  • Names
  • Locations and addresses
  • Descriptions of people
  • Car registration plates, make and models of vehicles
  • Description on suspicious activity

Additional safeguarding

  • If you refuse to take a young person as a passenger because they are too intoxicated, tell your controller so they can get assistance to them by informing the ambulance service, police, or door staff
  • Record any refusals – dates / addresses / phone numbers / descriptions
  • Always get a specific address from passengers

Please watch and share - Barnardos Nightwatch video


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