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. For example, 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.
You are not to blame if this is happening to you
The adults who have taken advantage of you are responsible and they are the people who have done something wrong
You have a say in your life
Is this you?
- You are friends with older adults
- You have an older boyfriend or girlfriend
- You stay out late and even all night
- You don’t stay in with your family and friends your own age, very much
- You have lost contact with friends
- You don’t go to school
- You use or have tried drugs and alcohol
- You are chatting to people on-line who you have never met
We know from experience that some adults, probably the older people you are hanging around with, draw young people just like you into sexual relationships.
These older adults are nice to you, they show you a lot of interest and affection at the beginning and they make you feel special. Sometimes they ask groups of young people to come back to their house with older people.
They offer you drugs and alcohol, a place to chill out. They may even buy you presents like clothes, a mobile phone, even give you money to buy things like cigarettes.
When they have gained your trust and affection they may change how they act around you.
They will ask for sexual favours for themselves and/or other people, in return for alcohol, drugs, presents, money; all the things they gave you for free a while ago.
They stop being nice and can become threatening and violent.
Their aim is to draw young people like you into swapping or selling sex. They are not really your friends."
Who can you trust?
It’s not always easy to tell. Sexual exploitation can happen to you, no matter what your gender, age or background – so you need to be careful who you trust. That means looking out for warning signs that someone might want to take advantage of you, whether you’ve recently met them or they belong to an existing group of friends.
One warning sign is when someone tries to get to know you better by giving you lots of attention and making you feel really special. They might buy you gifts or involve you in activities that seem exciting or fun. It becomes a problem if that person starts to try ways of controlling you, such as making promises they can’t keep, threatening you, or even becoming violent if you don’t do what they want.
They might also try and isolate you from your friends, family and other people who care for you. When that happens, it’s easier for an abuser to put you in dangerous situations or force you to do things you don’t want to do – with them or other people they know. That’s not doing you a favour – that’s exploitation. Sadly, individuals who have fewer people looking out for them are even more vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
Aaliyah`s was one of them, to read more about what happened and to find out how she got help click on ........ www.barnardos.org.uk/specialist_sexual_exploitation_projects
You may also want to contact one of Barnardo’s specialist sexual exploitation projects for advice, or to talk to someone about what you’ve been through: