Sexual exploitation

As we grow up, we develop relationships with lots of different people, it’s the way we learn and discover all the things we enjoy about a relationship and all the things we don’t. If you think about all the different relationships you have, with your friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, teachers or family members and think about how those relationships differ, you know what the expectations and boundaries are for each individual person. Sometimes the people we trust most will manipulate and exploit these relationships to control you and allow them to push or force you into sexual activities that you do not want to do. This is called  sexual exploitation and it’s a crime.

Be aware

  • Sometimes people purposely try to form relationships with children and young adults to use them for sexual activities.
  • People who do this want young people to think they are a friend, boyfriend/girlfriend or someone they can trust to gain power over them.
  • They sometimes use bribes, threats, humiliation and even violence to gain that power.
  • Once they feel in control they force the young individual into performing sexual activities with themselves and in some cases others too.
  • This happens to both boys and girls and can be really hard to spot because of the trust that has been gained by the individual and the people around them.  
  • There are warning signs that will help you spot sexual exploitation, it’s really important to know what these are so you can protect yourself and your friends.

Met someone new?

It can be hard to spot when someone is using you, here are 5 helpful signs to know when someone is not all they seem:


  • They give you lots of attention, more than whats considered normal
    We all like attention and it’s nice to feel wanted, but if someone tries to get to know by giving you lots of attention, ask yourself – what do they really want?
  • They give you gifts, phone credit, alcohol, drugs or jewellery
    This can be exciting and come across as very generous but if they want sex in return they are trying to exploit you.
  • They try to isolate you from your friends or family
    They will say that they are the only person you need. They might tell you that your friends or family won’t understand or you’ll be in trouble. Remember, the people who care about you will want to protect you.
  • They have mood swings
    If someone flips between being ‘very nice’ and ‘very nasty’, you can feel like you need to do things to keep them happy. This can be a sign they are trying to control you.
  • They control you with promises and threats
    Abusers use many tricks to control young people, they may make promises they can’t keep, ask them to keep secrets or threaten them. Some become violent.

Safe relationships

It’s really important you feel safe in any relationship you’re in.


  • Trust yourself to know when something is wrong
    If someone makes you feel unsafe, pressured or frightened, follow your instincts and get help.
  • Consider whether you can trust people you don’t know
    Even if they seem friendly, exciting or offer you gifts. Ask yourself – why are they being nice and doing me favours? What do they want in return?
  • You don’t have to do things you don’t want to or that you think are unsafe
    If you feel nervous about doing something, try to find a way out of the situation and seek help from someone you trust.
  • You should never be put under pressure to have sex or take part in sexual activities
    If someone really cares about you they won’t put any pressure on you. If you don’t feel you can say no, ask yourself, are you in a safe situation?
  • Know where to get help
    Keep contact details of an adult you trust with you, written down and on your phone, keep your phone topped up with credit and make sure someone always knows where you are.

Are you being exploited?

If you are worried about a situation that you or a friend is in, talk to an adult you trust as soon as you can. People who can help include parents, teachers, police officers social workers and youth workers.

Childline is a free, confidential helpline. If you need someone to talk to at anytime call them on 0800 1111 to speak to a counsellor or visit

Report to CEOP