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Children & young people

Sexual Exploitation

What is sexual exploitation and how do I know its happening?Sexual exploitation can be hard to recognise because you often believe you’re in a good relationship with the person – or people – who want to abuse your trust in them. It could be a friend, or group of friends. It could be someone you think of as a boyfriend or girlfriend. It could be a person or a new group of people you’ve only just got to know. It could be someone you’ve talked to online. But whoever it is, they could use clever ways to take advantage of your relationship – and that means you can be harmed almost before you know what’s going on.

What ‘clever’ ways might someone use to take advantage of your relationship?
Someone might give you money, drugs, alcohol, gifts or somewhere to stay and then force you to do one or more of these things in return:

  • Have sex with them
  • Do something sexual to them
  • Be touched inappropriately, in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable
  • Look at sexual images – including films or pictures
  • Watch them do something sexual, including having sex or touching themselves sexually.

That’s why it’s so important to look out for the warning signs that someone’s behaviour towards you may not be all it seems.

Is it still exploitation even if I think I ‘chose’ to do these things? Yes, it can still be exploitation. Many 17 & 18 year olds believe they can’t be victims as they are legally able to consent. This is not true.

Does it have to involve physical contact?
No, it can also happen through the use of technology.

But they're my boyfriend/girlfriend/friend?
It is hard to admit your relationship is not healthy. It is common for to an ‘exploiter’ show love and affection to their victims.  However, this can change and involve them becoming threatening, violent, behaving sexually towards you or expecting you to have sex with them or perform sexual acts on them or others.

Want to know more? Try our Useful Contact Information page. You could also try the Face Up 2 It website. Remember, you can always contact Childline on 0800 1111, or 116 000 for the ‘Say Something’ helpline.  

Victim Support can offer support and advice to victims of Child Sexual Exploitation by ringing 0845 30 30 9000.