Sexual exploitation can involve swapping sexual favours for drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, and other presents, having sex for money or feeling forced or pressured into having sex because somebody gives you something, or because you feel guilty, threatened, forced or scared.
When the person is under 18, this is child sexual exploitation.
Crucial: Child sexual exploitation is a crime – the police and social services will act to stop it happening. If you think you are being abused or are worried about a friend call the Kingfisher confidential helpline number on 01865 309196.
In an emergency, call 999.
There are social workers, family support workers and police officers in the team who can help stop the abuse. They are experts at identifying this sort of abuse and stopping it.
How does it happen?
We know from experience that some grown-ups target young people and draw them into abusive sexual relationships. This is how it works:
- Older adults show the young person a lot of interest and affection at the beginning, and make them feel special
- Sometimes they ask young people to come back to their house with other adults, or go to parties, which makes them feel grown up
- They may be offered drugs and alcohol, and a place to chill out
- The young people may get presents like clothes, a mobile phone, or money to buy alcohol and cigarettes, either from the adult or from other young people
- After the grown-up has gained the young person’s trust and affection, things change
- They will ask for sexual favours for themselves or other people, in return for alcohol, drugs, presents, money - all the things they started giving for free
- They stop being nice and can become manipulative, threatening or violent, to the young person or other people they care for
- Even though the relationship is hurting them, sometimes the young people may want to continue. This is because they think the adult is their boyfriend or girlfriend.
In reality they are being abused, and the ‘boyfriend’ or ‘girlfriend’ will move on to allowing other people to abuse the young person, too. This situation puts so much stress on the young person that they find it very hard to ask for help or change their behaviour.
Experience: My name is Luzia* (name changed to protect the identity) and when I was 13 I was groomed and abused by a group of older men. I now know this is called Child Sexual Exploitation but at the time I thought they loved me and I thought what they did to me was OK – it wasn’t – I was a child. At first I didn’t know what to do but then I trusted a safe adult and told them and they helped stop the abuse.
I made this film clip to try and help other children and young people stay safe. If something bad is happening to you SPEAK OUT, SHOUT LOUD, TRUST A SAFE ADULT AND TELL. DON’T BE ALONE – THERE ARE GOOD PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO WILL HELP YOU. PLEASE DON’T SUFFER IN SILENCE YOU ARE NOT ALONE. If you tell someone safe like a teacher, your social worker, the school nurse, your doctor, a police officer, a youth worker they will help you. There is ALWAYS HOPE so please don’t feel abuse is your path in life. If you tell the right people they will help you to stop it.
Know the warning signs
Taking risks is part of growing up, but sometimes young people get targeted by abusers and need help. The list of questions below can help you think about your own behaviour. If this sounds like your life, you could be at risk of sexual exploitation by older adults
- Do you stay out overnight?
- Have you been missing from home?
- Do you miss school?
- Does a grown-up outside your family give you money, clothes, jewellery, a mobile phone or other presents?
- Do you have an older boyfriend or girlfriend?
- Do you take drugs or drink alcohol?
- Are you losing touch with your family and friends?
- Do you worry about your own behaviour sometimes?
- Do you keep secrets about where you go and who you see?
- Do you chat to people online that you don't know?
Crucial: Sexual abusers can be women, as well as men.
How to take action - for you or for a friend
If you are worried that an adult is trying to abuse you, tell someone you can trust.
If you can, talk to your parent, your carer or a close member of your family. Sometimes it is difficult to talk about personal problems like sex. Perhaps you think your parents or carer will be angry or upset.
Even so, it is better to ask for help if you are unhappy about the way you are being treated by an older person.
If you are unable to talk to anyone at home, find someone else you can talk to – such as a teacher, a worker at an Early Intervention Hub or another worker, or someone from your religion or local community. Tell the trusted person about your concerns.
Child sexual exploitation is a crime – the police and social services will act to stop it happening.
Crucial: If you think you are being abused or are worried about a friend call the Kingfisher confidential helpline number on 01865 309196. In an emergency, call 999.
Definition of Child Sexual Exploitation
This definition of child sexual exploitation is agreed by the government, police, and other groups, like the NSPCC:
Child sexual exploitation is a form of child abuse. It occurs where anyone under the age of 18 is persuaded, coerced or forced into sexual activity in exchange for, amongst other things, money, drugs/alcohol, gifts, affection or status. Consent is irrelevant, even where a child may believe they are voluntarily engaging in sexual activity with the person who is exploiting them, Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact and may occur online.
Help to recover
If you have been a victim of child sexual exploitation, help to recover is available. The Horizon service are a team who specialise in young people’s mental health offering help and support to young people who have had experiences in relation to sexual abuse. For more information, read their leaflet.