Grooming and sexual exploitation

Grooming usually starts out with someone befriending a young person, this can be face to face or online.

The friendship often intensifies quickly with the ultimate aim of taking advantage of the young person and exploiting them sexually. Abusers are very good at gaining trust and often use tactics such as buying gifts or supplying alcohol and drugs to manipulate victims into doing things for them over time.

Sexual exploitation includes any situation where someone is manipulating or forcing you into doing something sexual. This could be asking you to send semi-naked or naked pictures of yourself or to do something sexual with them or with another person. This person may be a friend, or they may be your boyfriend or girlfriend – it is still wrong for them to force you to behave in a certain way.

If you have been exploited or if you feel that you are in situation where you might be taken advantage of, we are here to help. You might feel embarrassed about what has happened or you may be scared to speak to anyone. Remember, this is not your fault.

The best thing you can do is to tell someone. You might feel afraid, confused or too scared to do anything about your situation but telling someone you trust is the best way forward. Talk to an adult you can trust and ask for help or contact us directly. You can speak to us in confidence and we will find the best way forward together.

If you would like to, you can meet with one of our friendly staff in person. We can provide counselling or you could take part in activities with other young people who have had similar experiences to you.

We will take things at your pace and we will support you in whatever way suits you best. We are here to help you back on your feet so please get in touch.

It doesn’t matter if you haven’t told anyone about your experience before or if it happened a long time ago. You can find out more about the support we offer on our ‘what we do’ page.

What we do

All of our services are free and confidential.

Staying safe

It’s important to be aware of the risks of chatting to strangers online and that people you chat to may not always be who they say they are. You can be tempted to give out personal details but it’s really important that you’re careful about what details you give out online.

  • NEVER give out personal contact details online and NEVER meet up with someone you’ve met online unless an adult goes along with you.
  • Never send any pictures of yourself or your mates and family to anyone you’ve met online.
  • Don’t open links to other sites you might have been sent in a chat room and don’t open emails from anyone you don’t know.
  • If you’re being pestered in a chat room, block that person.  Ask someone how to do this.
  • Tell your parents or your teachers straight away if you come across any info or pictures that make you feel awkward or embarrassed. If you don’t feel comfortable doing this you can contact us in confidence, we are here for help and support.

Know the signs

Most people that we come into contact with in our day-to-day life our genuine, but sometimes you can come across people who might try to take advantage of you and may persuade or force you to do things you don’t want to do.
It could be a friend, or a group of friends, or someone you think of as a boyfriend or girlfriend, or it could be someone you have chatted to online.
Knowing the signs that can lead to someone taking advantage of you can help to keep you safe.

  • This person might try to give you money, drugs, alcohol or gifts in return for something they want.
  • They may flatter you, give you lots of attention and make you feel special but then ask you to do things which don’t seem right.
  • They might start to make promises they can’t keep and try to control you, threaten you or become violent if you don’t do what they want.
  • They might try to take you away from your family and friends.
  • They may pressure you to have sex with them or someone else, do something sexual to them or look at images or films that make you feel uncomfortable.

Are you worried about a friend?

These are some of the signs that may mean someone is in danger of being sexually exploited.

  • Have they received unexplained gifts or money?
  • Do they use their mobile phone secretively?
  • Do they have significantly older friends?
  • Have they been picked up from home or school by someone you don’t know?
  • Are they associating with other young people who are already known to be vulnerable or involved in exploitation?
  • Have they started playing truant from school or regularly going missing from home?
  • Have they suffered from a sexually-transmitted infection?
  • Are they self-harming?
  • Has their appearance changed?

Tell someone

Whether you have been affected yourself or are worried for someone else’s safety, the best thing to do is to tell an adult you trust. If you are unsure who to talk to please contact us and we can find the best way forward together.