Helping our communities tackle sexual exploitation


Sexual exploitation is a form of sexual abuse where people are groomed, forced and coerced into taking part in sexual activities. They may receive something in return, such as gifts, money or affection. They may be threatened into taking part by fear of violence or abuse.

Sexual exploitation can involve physical contact and the sharing of sexual images through the internet and social media. It can happen as part of a relationship which the person being exploited may view as loving and consensual.

Anyone of any age and gender can be sexually exploited. This includes children and people who are aged sixteen and over who can legally consent to sex – if they are forced, deceived or coerced they cannot freely give consent.

Sexual exploitation may happen on several or repeated occasions and can be part of organised abuse, exploitation and criminality. Perpetrators can be outsiders or people known to the person, such as a partner, family member or friend.

Sexual exploitation can also happen within peer groups and gangs as a form of punishment and control, or as a show of status and power. People who are exploited by drug gangs may also be sexually exploited by gang members.

Signs that someone is being sexually exploited could include:

  • Having inappropriate or unusual relationships or friendships with other people, including people who seem controlling or are significantly older
  • Inappropriate sexualised behaviour, language or clothing
  • Sending sexually explicit content via the internet, mobile phones or social media
  • Frequently being late or going missing
  • Knowing or suspecting that someone has been sexually assaulted, has contracted a sexually transmitted infection, or has become pregnant unexpectedly
  • Having lots of new items such as money, alcohol, drugs, clothes and mobile phones
  • Changes in behaviour and emotional wellbeing

If you are concerned that you or someone you know is being sexually exploited help is available.

What we are doing to tackle sexual exploitation in Devon

We work with partners including child and adult safeguarding to raise awareness of sexual exploitation, assist preventative work and provide support and protection for people affected by this issue.


If you or someone you know is in immediate danger contact 999.

If you are concerned about someone’s safety or welfare contact:  

Run Away Helpline

Confidential 24/7 helpline for people affected by issues such as sexual exploitation who feel like, or have, run away, or are concerned about someone who has gone missing.

Call or text: 116 000

Access the Run Away Helpline website

Crime Stoppers

Anonymous helpline for reporting information and suspicions.

Helpline: 0800 555 111

Access the Crime Stoppers website

Devon and Cornwall Police

To report and seek advice about crimes, incidents and concerns.

Call: 101 non-emergency number

Report via the online crime reporting form

Devon Children and Families Partnership

Information about the sexual exploitation of children and links to helplines and support.

Access the Devon Safeguarding Children Partnership website

Devon Safeguarding Adults Partnership

Information about the sexual exploitation of adults and links to helplines and support.

Access the Torbay and Devon Safeguarding Adults Partnership website

Victim Care Network

Directory of local support for victims of crime and exploitation.

Acces the Victim Care Network website