The threat from child sexual exploitation and abuse

Child sexual exploitation and abuse continues to grow. This is particularly true of online abuse where ever-more-sophisticated digital tools protect anonymity and where apps encourage children to engage in risky behaviour.

Most contact abuse continues to happen within families, or is inflicted by acquaintances or people in positions of trust. Pockets of abuse often centre around a care home or other places where particularly vulnerable children gather.

Online abuse is frequently carried out by lone offenders who access children, and evade detection, using the dark web and the mainstream internet. Criminals will groom children both in person and online, and may travel to carry out their abuse in countries where the law is more lax. 

Children are often too frightened or embarrassed to report their abuse, and they may themselves become enmeshed in drawing other children into exploitation. They are often tricked into believing they are sharing images with another child with whom they are developing an online relationship. They are vulnerable to blackmail as their abuser threatens to release the explicit photos or videos they have made in order to extort further sexual activity or money.

Our response

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Children safeguarded from sexual abuse and exploitation as a result of NCA activity in 2017/18

We protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse by investigating and arresting child sex offenders, protecting and safeguarding victims, and educating children and young people about how to protect themselves.

Working together with law enforcement, industry and voluntary sector partners – both in the UK and abroad – is vital to our success in designing out preventable offending, protecting victims and bringing offenders to justice in this transnational threat area.

Investigating child sex offenders

We target people engaged in all forms of child sexual exploitation and abuse, both those carrying out contact child sexual abuse and those committing online offences such as creating, sharing or viewing indecent images of children, grooming children online, or blackmailing children, and livestreaming of actual and recorded abuse.. 

Our reach is not limited to offences committed in the UK. We track child sex offenders who travel abroad to commit abuse or come to the UK to do so. We also provide specialist advice and capabilities to support investigations by law enforcement partners in the UK and around the world.

As the central point of reporting for industry and international law enforcement we receive vast amounts of intelligence about child sex offending. We use this intelligence to lead and support law enforcement operations worldwide in order to identify offenders and safeguard children and young people.

Protecting and safeguarding victims

Our child protection advisors support victims. They investigate reports of child sexual exploitation and identify and safeguard victims, working closely with operational teams to ensure victims' interests are at the heart of everything we do. They also provide specialist support to police and partners in the UK and internationally, helping to safeguard and protect victims wherever they are in the world.

 

Educating children and young people

Extensive intelligence underpins our Thinkuknow programme, which educates children of all ages and offers advice to parents and carers. Our education team provides specialist Thinkuknow training events for educators, carers, law enforcement and other partner organisations in the UK and overseas.