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Tackling Child Sexual Exploitation

Spotting the signs of sexual exploitation

The NSPCC website has lots of information about child abuse including child sexual exploitation (CSE). 

Sexual exploitation can be difficult to spot but knowing the signs can help protect children and help them when they have no one else to turn to.

Signs of sexual exploitation and grooming can include:

  • Unhealthy or inappropriate sexual behaviour
  • Being frightened of some people, places, or situations
  • Being secretive
  • Sharp changes in mood or character
  • A sudden change in their family relationships/dynamics
  • Having money or things they can't or won't explain, such as hotel key cards or unexplained gifts
  • Physical signs of abuse, like bruises or bleeding in their genital or anal area
  • Sudden change in physical appearance including clothes and hygiene levels
  • Alcohol or drug misuse
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Pregnancy
  • A sudden and urgent request for contraception or to obtain the ‘morning after pill’
  • Having an older person that they view as their boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Staying out late or overnight
  • Having a new group of friends
  • Missing from home or care, or stopping going to school or college
  • Hanging out with older people, other vulnerable people or in antisocial groups
  • Involved in a gang
  • Involved in criminal activities like selling drugs or shoplifting

If you are concerned about a child, you can contact the NSPCC helpline by calling 0808 800 5000 or emailing

Reporting concerns and getting support  

If you suspect someone of committing CSE or believe someone you know may be a victim, you can report it to GMP via LiveChat at or by calling 101. In an emergency, dial 999.  

Greater Manchester Victims’ Services provides support for all victims of reported and unreported crime in Greater Manchester. The service is available weekdays from 8am to 8pm and Saturdays from 9am to 5pm via phone: 0800 876 6155 or email:

Saint Mary's Sexual Assault Referral Centre provides a comprehensive and co-ordinated response to men, women and children who live or have been sexually assaulted within Greater Manchester. They offer forensic medical examinations, practical and emotional support as well as a counselling service for all ages. Services are available on a 24-hour basis and can be accessed by calling 0161 276 6515.

Greater Manchester Rape Crisis is a confidential information, support, and counselling service run by women for women over 18 who have been raped or sexually abused at any time in their lives. Call on 0161 273 4500 or email

We Are Survivors provides specialist trauma informed support to male victims in Greater Manchester who have experienced sexual abuse, rape, or sexual exploitation. Call 0161 236 2182.

If you are struggling to cope or having suicidal thoughts, call the Samaritans 24/7 on 116 123.

The Maggie Oliver Foundation provides emotional support and legal advocacy to survivors and those at risk of child sexual exploitation. Visit The Maggie Oliver Foundation - Helping Survivors of Abuse

Independent Assurance Reviews into child sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester

Independent assurance reviews of the effectiveness of multi-agency responses to child sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester, written and carried out by child protection specialist Malcolm Newsam CBE and former senior police officer Gary Ridgway.

Part One: Operation Augusta

Following the airing of the BBC documentary, The Betrayed Girls, about child sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester on 3 July 2017, the Mayor announced he wanted to assure himself and the public that everything possible has been done to protect children today, and in the future, and prevent it from happening again.

The findings of the first independent review were published on Tuesday 14 Jan 2020 - An assurance review of Operation Augusta.

The report, written by child protection specialist Malcolm Newsam CBE and former senior police officer Gary Ridgway, considers the Operation Augusta investigation, which was launched by GMP following the death of 15-year-old Victoria Agoglia, who – after years of abuse and days after she was injected with heroin by a 50-year-old man – died in hospital of an overdose in 2003.

Independent Assurance Review Part One - Operation Augusta (PDF, 1.4MB)

Operation Augusta and Child Sexual Exploitation in Greater Manchester - GMCA news article

GMCA Addendum to paragraph 5.50 of Independent Assurance Review Part One - Operation Augusta (PDF, 144KB)

Part Two: Oldham

The independent assurance review into historic CSE in Oldham, published on 20 June 2022, found there were serious failings in the handling of some cases, particularly of the victim, ‘Sophie’. The review team found that some children had been failed by the agencies that were meant to protect them because child protection procedures had not been properly followed.

Evidence of poor practice was attributed to a structural flaw the review team found in the multi-agency system that was set up to tackle to CSE leading to some children not being protected and perpetrators not being apprehended earlier.

However, the review team found no evidence either through interviews or documentary review to suggest senior managers or councillors sought to cover-up the existence of CSE or the complexity involved in tackling perpetrators and nor was there widespread CSE in residential settings, in shisha bars or in the local taxi trade.

The review was commissioned in November 2019 by Oldham Council who requested that the Mayor of Greater Manchester and the Greater Manchester Safeguarding Standards Board’s independent chair conduct a review into safeguarding practices in Oldham.

Independent Assurance Review Part Two - Historic Safeguarding Practices in Oldham (PDF, 1.2MB)

Review into historic safeguarding practices in Oldham - GMCA news article

Independent review into historical safeguarding practice - Oldham Council website

Part Three: Operation Span (Rochdale)

In response to allegations made in the BBC documentary ‘The Betrayed Girls’, which aired in July 2017, Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham commissioned an independent assurance exercise of the effectiveness of multi-agency responses to child sexual exploitation in Greater Manchester.

Part three of this exercise is the review into Operation Span and the investigation of non-recent CSE in Rochdale, which was published on Monday 15 January 2024.

This report focuses on the sexual exploitation of children in Rochdale between 2004 and 2012, and specifically considers the allegations set out by both Sara Rowbotham and Maggie Oliver in 2017.

The review found evidence of widespread organised sexual exploitation of children within Rochdale from 2004 to 2013, and failures by statutory agencies to respond appropriately.

Review into Operation Span and the investigation of non-recent child sexual exploitation in Rochdale (PDF 1MB)

Review published into Operation Span and non-recent child sexual exploitation in Rochdale

Response to ‘The review into Operation Span and the investigation of non-recent child sexual exploitation in Rochdale’