Sexual Exploitation

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What is sexual exploitation?

If someone gives you something to get you to do sexual things with them or someone else, this is called sexual exploitation.

It could be for money, drugs, alcohol, a lift or a place to stay. And they don’t have to give you money or a physical thing for it to be sexual exploitation. They might give you affection, make you feel like they care for you, or treat you like an adult – maybe when it seems like no one else does.

Here are some of the things that can happen:

  • It’s usually someone older, maybe an adult. But it can be someone of any age. 
  • Sometimes adults use young people to draw other young people in.
  • It can involve one person, or groups or networks of people.
  • It might be someone you know in person, or it might happen online.
  • Sometimes they get to know young people online and then try to meet them.
  • They might be making money from getting you to do sexual things – like having sex with people, or by getting you to film yourself doing sexual things online (known as camming or webcamming) 
  • Sometimes you might be taken to another part of the country where you don’t know anyone.
  • Or you might be brought to Scotland from another country – maybe you thought you were coming for a job, or to study, but when you got here you were made to have sex with other people.

If you’d like more information in easy read format, take a look at this guide for more information.

What is grooming?

Sometimes people spend time developing relationships with children or young people, to make it seem as if they care about them, or to make them feel grown up or good about themselves. This is called ‘grooming’.

You often can’t see it at the time – it might feel like it’s a real relationship, or that you’re making your own choices. Groomers can be very skilled at making you feel special or grown up, and they can make you trust them more than other adults in your life.

But on the other hand, maybe something starts to feel wrong, maybe you feel you’re being pushed into it, or you feel yourself depending on this person all the time and feel like you can’t leave them, or you feel pressured and like you can’t get out of it when you want to.

These are some of the ways a person might try do this:

  • They might make you feel you owe them something, or you have to agree to have sex to keep them interested in you
  • They might make you more and more dependant on them (if they’re getting alcohol or drugs for you, or you don’t have anywhere else to stay)
  • There might be threats (maybe of violence, maybe of sharing information about you, or your pictures or videos)
  • They might make you feel no one will believe you if you try to get help, or that you’ll be blamed for things (like for having sex, using drugs or alcohol)
  • They might be encouraging you to use alcohol and drugs, which might make you feel like you would be judged or blamed for getting into this situation, which means you don’t feel like you can get support or help from anyone
  • The person might be nice sometimes, and at other times be angry, controlling or violent. This can be really confusing and upsetting and leave you feeling like it’s your fault and you done something to make them angry

Take a look at the video below from Childline about grooming and some of the things to keep an eye out for.

Take a look at this easy read guide about grooming, for more information.

What does the law say?

A lot of things that can happen as part of sexual exploitation are sexual offences (against the law) under the Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2009 – for example any sex without consent is rape or sexual assault. People over the age of 16 are not allowed to have sex with people under the age of 16.

Grooming is also an offence. This means it’s against the law for someone to develop a relationship with a young person under the age of 16 so as to gain their trust and get them into situations where they intend to sexually assault them.

For more information, see the Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences (Scotland) Act 2005 Section 1: Meeting a child following certain preliminary contact.

Where can you get help and support?

There are lots of places you can go to get help and support, find out different options and how you can get in touch with them.

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