What is Sexual Exploitation?

This is a type of sexual abuse where children and young people are tricked or pressured, by an adult or friends of a similar age, into sexual activity in return for something – like attention, love, food, shelter, cigarettes, drugs, alcohol, gifts or money. It happens to boys and girls and can happen online.

You might think this person is your friend or boyfriend or girlfriend but they may threaten you and trick (manipulate) you without you realising.

It’s important that you know how to spot the warning sights so you can protect yourself and your friends.

How does sexual exploitation happen?

Someone that’s exploiting you may:

  • Show you a lot of interest and affection and make you feel special
  • Take you and your friends back to their house or to parties
  • Offer you drugs, alcohol or a place to hang out
  • Buy you clothes, a mobile phone or money

Once they’ve gained your 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 threatening or violent

The warning signs of sexual exploitation

If you’re worried about a friend, some of the signs they are in trouble could include:

  • Having an older boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Hanging out with new older friends
  • Staying out late or going missing from home and school
  • Being bought presents or given food, money, drink, cigarettes or drugs
  • Being secretive about what they’re doing and who they’re with
  • Spending increasing amounts of time talking secretly with new friends
  • Receiving calls or texts from strangers asking to meet up
  • Misusing drugs or alcohol
  • Accepting lifts from people they don’t know
  • A sudden change in their behaviour – becoming aggressive and disruptive, or quiet and withdrawn
  • Further signs of sexual exploitation can be found on the Barnardo’s website: http://www.barnardos.org.uk/get_involved/campaign/cse/spotthesigns.htm

If you are worried about yourself or a friend, you need to tell someone straight away. This could be a teacher or any other adult you trust.

If you or someone you know is at immediate risk call 999. 

Help and Advice where there is not an emergency

CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre)

Has someone acted inappropriately towards you online? It may be sexual chat, being asked to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable or someone being insistent on meeting up. You can report it to the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP): www.ceop.police.uk 


The latest information on the sites you like to visit, mobiles and new technology. Find out what’s good, what’s not and what you can do about it. Most importantly, there’s also a place which anyone can use to report if they feel uncomfortable or worried about someone they are chatting to online. www.thinkuknow.co.uk 


A free 24-hour counselling service for children and young people up to their 19th birthday in the UK provided by the NSPCC. Calls are free and confidential.

0800 1111


Rape Crisis

How to get help if you’ve experienced rape, child sexual abuse and/or any other kind of sexual violence and details of your nearest Rape Crisis services; information for friends, partners, family and other people supporting a sexual violence survivor; information about sexual violence for survivors, students, journalists and others.

0808 802 9999