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.
We have developed an online Preventing Exploitation Toolkit to tackle the threat of exploitation in Devon. The toolkit provides information and support to help frontline workers learn about, identify and report exploitation. It is designed for anyone who, through their paid or voluntary role, may come across people who are vulnerable to exploitation.
HELP AND SUPPORT
If you or someone you know is in immediate danger contact 999.
If you are concerned about someone’s safety or welfare contact:
Devon Children and Families Partnership
Information about the sexual exploitation of children and links to helplines and support.
Devon Safeguarding Adults Partnership
Information about the sexual exploitation of adults and links to helplines and support.