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Sexual exploitation

What is it?

Sexual exploitation is someone using the power they have over other people, usually young people and children, to sexually abuse them in some way. The types of power people use to exploit others can include age, money, gender, intellect and strength.

People often think of sexual exploitation as being connected to organised crime, but it also covers abuse within relationships. It may involve informal exchanges of sex for something the victim wants or needs, such as accommodation, gifts or attention.

Some people are groomed through “boyfriends” who force the child or young person into having sex with other people.

Sexual abuse covers penetrative sex (inserting the penis), sexual touching, masturbation and misuse of sexual images, e.g. on the Internet or by mobile phone.

It can be difficult to tackle sexual exploitation, because the people who’ve been exploited may not understand that sexual contact that they haven’t agreed to is sexual assault or rape.

Any child or young person can be a victim of sexual exploitation, but people are believed to be at greater risk of being sexually exploited if they:

  • are homeless
  • have feelings of low self-esteem
  • have had a recent bereavement or loss
  • are in care
  • are a young carer

West Midlands Children and Young Persons Service is a one-stop service open to anyone up to the age of 17 who has been the victim of rape, sexual violence and/or sexual abuse.