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Child sexual exploitation

Sexual exploitation #nopressure

Sexual exploitation is when someone you know (eg a friend, group of friends, boyfriend or girlfriend) takes advantage of you and abuses your trust in a harmful way.

No pressure

Someone may offer you something, such as a place to stay, money, drugs, alcohol or presents, and then expect something from you in return such as:

  • having sex with them
  • doing something sexual to them
  • being touched inappropriately, in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable
  • making you look at sexual images (films or pictures)
  • watching them do something sexual (having sex or touching themselves sexually)

Sexual exploitation can happen to anyone, regardless of their gender, age or background. So you need to be careful who you trust. Sexual exploitation can be hard to recognise because many individuals believe they're in a good relationship with a person who is abusing them.

Are you or your friends being sexually exploited

It's important to be aware of the warning signs that someone’s behaviour towards you may not be appropriate.

A person may start controlling you in the following ways:

  • they make promises they can’t keep
  • they threaten you or even become violent if you don’t do what they want (eg have sex with them)
  • they try to isolate you from your friends, family and other people who care for you

There are a number of behaviours that can be considered exploitation and you may not think or realise you're being sexually exploited. Take a look at the information below which gives examples of how an abuser may behave towards you:

  • they may try and target a young person or a group of young people in schools, parks or by setting up a false profile on the internet
  • they may show an interest in you and offer you something (eg a cigarette or someone to talk to)
  • they may give you a mobile phone so they can keep in contact with you
  • they may say you look pretty, make you feel like an adult or do favours for you and fun things with you
  • they may make you watch pornography or sexual acts
  • they may make you do dangerous things and/or against the law, like drinking, taking and/or selling drugs or other criminal activity
  • they may force you to do sexual favours in return for not being hurt or for something you need (can include violence or threats of violence)
  • they may force you into having sex with others for something you need or want, by either force or persuasion
  • they may force or persuade you to do sexual things, such as taking naked photos of yourself or being filmed performing sexual acts

It’s important to tell someone

Being pressured into having sex or doing sexual things is wrong. No one should ever make you feel you have to do something you don’t want to do, even if they're your friend, boyfriend or girlfriend, of if they've given you money or presents.

If you're worried about a situation that you or a friend is in, talk to a trustworthy adult, such as a teacher, parent, carers or social worker.

You can also contact MASH, Southwark’s multi-agency safeguarding hub, on 020 7525 1921 for confidential help and advice.

NSPCC provide a 24 hour child protection helpline - phone 0808 800 5000 to discuss your concerns.

Childline offers free, confidential advice and support no matter what you're worried about and whenever you need help. Contact them on 0800 11 11.

If you, or a friend, are in immediate danger or need urgent help, call 999 or contact your local police.

You can read Daisy's story below:

"I made friends with a guy one afternoon when I was on my school lunch break. He was really funny and showed me lots of attention. At first we were just laughing and having fun - my friends were jealous and I felt like a grown up.

We would meet up after school and put our arms around each other.  My friends told me to be careful but I didn’t see the danger.

He sent me some naked pictures and asked me to send him some.  At first I said no and then he said if I loved him I would do it.

I took some naked selfies and sent them to him.  He told me he loved me and that he wanted us to be together. I felt happy.

One night after school I told my parents I was staying with my friend Tia for the night when really I was staying with the guy. We had sex.

The next day I sent him a message but he didn’t reply, I didn’t hear anything from him for a few days and then he sent me a message asking to meet up and have sex. I said I didn’t want to, but he said he had photos of me and if I didn’t he would send them to my friends and put them online.

I was scared and didn’t know what to do."

Daisy was being abused. She often thought to herself:

  • I love my boyfriend but…
  • I feel I have to have sex; if I don’t I’m scared what he may do
  • he makes me do things I don’t feel comfortable doing
  • he says he’ll tell my friends if I don’t do what he wants
  • I’ve sent him private photos and I’m scared he’ll pass them to his friends if I don’t have sex with him
  • I’m scared he’ll leave me if I don’t do as I’m told

If you're thinking the same thoughts you may want to tell someone.

Page last updated: 23 January 2024

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