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Child sexual exploitation - warning signs for young people

Exploitation can be hard to recognise, it's important you spot the signs that it's happening.

Sexual exploitation can be hard to recognise because you often believe you're in a good relationship with the person - or people.

Think about all your different relationships

The relationship could be with close friends, a boyfriend or girlfriend - and maybe groups of friends from school or the area you live in. 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.

These older adults are nice to you - they show you a lot of interest and affection in the beginning - they make you feel special. Sometimes they ask groups of young people to come back to their house with older people.

As we grow up, we develop relationships with lots of different people. We all have to learn to enjoy healthy relationships, and that's a great skill to have.

But things can go wrong along the way, and people might try to take advnatage of you, forcing you into dangerous situations before you know it.

That's why you need to be aware of warning signs that someone may want to exploit you and to be very careful who you trust. 

Warning signs

They offer you drugs and alcohol - a place to chill out or involve you in activities that seem exciting or fun. They may even buy you presents like clothes, a mobile phone, or give you money to buy things.

When they have gained your trust and affection they may change how they act around you.

Their aim is to draw young people like you into swapping or selling sex. They are not really your friends.

That person may start to try to find 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 separate 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.

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 free a while ago.

Sometimes, young people who have fewer people looking out for them are even more vulnerable to sexual exploitation. 

Talk to someone you can trust

It's not always easy to talk about this, but it is important that you do.

Sexual exploitation can happen to you, no matter whether you are a boy or a girl, and no matter what your age or background - so you need to be careful who you trust. 

Three to tips to keep safe

  1. Trust yourself to know when something is wrong. If someone makes you feel unsafe, pressured, trapped or frightened, follow your instincts and get help straight away
  2. Don’t trust people you don’t know, even if they seem friendly – and make sure you know who you are talking to online. Never give away personal details or agree to meet someone who you have only talked to online
  3. Don’t be tricked into doing things that are unsafe, even if they seem like fun. What might look exciting at first could be more harmful than you realise

People are there to help you

If you are concerned about a child or young person (including yourself).

Report abuse

Telephone: Call Childline on 0800 1111

If you would like to share information that might help protect a child.

Telephone Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111

The free confidential helpline and email address, provided by the NSPCC, are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Telephone: free on 0800 731 9256

The 'Say Something' helpline is a free and anonymous helpline to share any worries you have about yourself or friends and provide support to help you keep safe.

Telephone or Text 116000 (it is free)

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