Sexual exploitation is a type of sexual abuse. The definition from the Department for Education talks about children but can also be applied to adults:
“Child sexual exploitation is a form of child sexual abuse. It occurs where an individual or group takes advantage of an imbalance of power to coerce, manipulate or deceive a child or young person under the age of 18 into sexual activity (a) in exchange for something the victim needs or wants, and/or (b) for the financial advantage or increased status of the perpetrator or facilitator. The victim may have been sexually exploited even if the sexual activity appears consensual. Child sexual exploitation does not always involve physical contact; it can also occur through the use of technology." (DfE, Feb2017)
Adults can and have been victims of sexual exploitation, the effects are devastating and as with children, sometimes the victims do not realise that they are in an abusive situation which makes it difficult to ask for help and accept support.
Both males and females can be sexually exploited. The adult themselves does not always realise that they have been or are being exploited.
It is the vulnerability (whether that be age, disability, illness, poor life experiences, previous victims of abuse, isolation) of the alleged victim that is important, not just their age. Victims are groomed and exploited in many different ways e.g. online, gangs, “boyfriend”.
Perpetrators are often male but women and girls are known to be perpetrators too. Perpetrators may work together in groups or alone.
- Unexplained money, clothes and mobile phones
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Evidence or suspicions of sexual assault
- Self-harm or significant changes in emotional wellbeing
- Change in physical appearance/clothing
- Being isolated from peers and social networks
- Increase in use of drugs or alcohol.
Sexual or criminal exploitation is usually linked to other forms of abuse or crime, this could be:
- Modern Slavery and Trafficking (moving a person from one location to another to exploit them)
- County Lines
- Cuckooing (when your home is taken over by others and usually used for criminal activity such as selling drugs)