The impact of CSE

Child sexual exploitation has a devastating, long-term impact on the child who is abused, but also for the whole family.

How does sexual exploitation affect a child?

Once a child is entrapped in a cycle of sexual exploitation, it can be difficult for their parents to understand why they return to their exploiters. The control and manipulation the child is under is very similar to that experienced by victims of domestic violence.

Repeated sexual abuse will result in fear of not being believed, a lack of self-esteem and worthlessness, but also misplaced loyalties towards their exploiters. For many children, the abuse equates to their first experience of sex and love, of which they have no prior experience to measure it against. It is also important to remember that sexually exploited children are often explicitly threatened with violence if they disclose the abuse. It is common for their family to be threatened, so the child may feel they are protecting you, the parent, by enduring the abuse.

Sadly, child sexual exploitation can leave some young people with serious long-term emotional and physical effects. You may prefer to read about these once you have spoken to one of our parent support workers and are certain of your child’s exposure to it. That way you can ensure you have the necessary support and knowledge in order to deal with the reality of what your child is experiencing.

How does child sexual exploitation impact on the family?

The sexual exploitation of their child is devastating for parents to witness. Many parents who work alongside us have reported feelings such as anger, guilt, shame, embarrassment, confusion and profound isolation. On a practical level, parents may find:

  • Their child may act violently or out of control. They may be truanting from school and in trouble from the police
  • Judgemental attitudes from those in authority
  • Relationships within and outside the family can come under strain
  • Mental health problems or manifestations of stress and exhaustion

For a guide on how to manage the everyday stress of living with child sexual exploitation, please go to Living With Child Sexual Exploitation in our Advice Centre.