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Toward a Global Definition and Understanding of Child Sexual Exploitation: The Development of a Conceptual Model
journal contributionposted on 2022-10-05, 22:22 authored by J J Laird, Bianca KlettkeBianca Klettke, Kate HallKate Hall, David HallfordDavid Hallford
Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a serious and persistent global issue affecting up to 5% of the child and youth population worldwide; yet there is no universally accepted definition. To develop a theoretically robust definition of CSE, this review systematically synthesized literature examining CSE definitions aiming to develop a conceptual model and typology. Electronic databases were searched to February 2021, yielding 384 nonduplicative records. Inclusion criteria were peer-reviewed and grey literature investigations of sexual exploitation, with a mean sample age of 18 years or younger, available in the English language. Literature review and data extraction followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. Sixty-six studies met final inclusion criteria. Two independent reviewers extracted relevant data and used an epistemological approach to thematically analyse meaning and patterns across CSE definitions. Key findings demonstrate that CSE nomenclature is widely inconsistent, and despite growing awareness of this severe form of abuse, language continues to perpetuate stigma and criminalisation, utilising terms such as ‘adolescent or child prostitute’. Our findings propose a scientifically and trauma-informed definition and conceptualisation of CSE, based on the following four-dimensional components: (1) A child/young person; (2) sexual acts; (3) abuse; and (4) exploitation (abuse + exchange). In this systematic review, a unified definition and conceptual model aims to advance knowledge and understanding of CSE, contributing to the progression of social norms which embrace nuances of trauma-informed practice and support for the identification and recovery of children, young people and families affected by sexual exploitation.