What is Sexual Exploitation
What is Sexual Exploitation?
This is when someone uses something you need or want to get you involved in sexual stuff.
Needs and wants include:
A boyfriend, girlfriend or a friend, cigarettes, love, affection, support, drugs, alcohol, a job, gifts, money, a lift home, a favour, a secret to be kept, food, a place to stay, protection and much more.
Different services and organisations use different definitions for sexual exploitation. The BLAST Project uses the definition above, which is a condensed version of the definition found in the National Guidance: Safeguarding Children and Young People from Sexual Exploitation (2009).
Lee needs a lift home for free as he has no money, but only gets one when he shows the taxi driver his bum.
Tom wants a supportive and loving relationship, but only gets this when he has sex with other people.
Ben wants a new Xbox game, but only gets one when he sends someone naked photos of himself.
Mark wants a bag of weed, but only gets it when he lets other people watch him and his girlfriend have sex.
In the examples above John and Lee needed something, and Tom, Mark and Ben wanted something. Their needs and wants were being exploited by the people who offered them what they needed/wanted in exchange for something sexual.
These are very basic examples and other examples can be a lot more complicated. They can involve being forced, pressured, persuaded or tricked into doing sexual stuff. Sometimes boys and young me don't even know what's hapeening to them.
Other Examples of Sexual Exploitation
A 15 year old boy wants to learn self defence, and is taught some judo moves by his 35 year old neighbour who insists he showers after. Whilst showering the 15 year old boy does not know that the 35 year old is watching him through the keyhole.
In this example the 35 year old is exploiting the boy’s want to learn self defence by using the situation to see the boy naked.
A 16 year old boy wants to be an actor, and is offered a part in a short film by a 30 year old who says he/she is a film maker. The 16 year old goes to see the 30 year old at his/her house to find out more about the film. When he arrives, the 30 year old and his/her friends force the 16 year old into doing sexual things.
In this example the 30 year old is exploiting the boy’s want to be an actor by offering him a part in a short film, and using this to force him into sexual activity.
A 15 year old boy wants a relationship with someone, and ends up chatting online to a 21 year old who says he/she fancies him. The 21 year old says he/she wants to have sex with the 15 year old boy, but doesn’t want him to tell anyone because it’s illegal and the 21 year old will get into trouble. The 15 year old says he does not want to rush into having sex, and the 21 year old tells him that he/she will only be in a relationship with him if they have sex when they next meet. When they both meet, they have sex and the 21 year old never contacts the 15 year old again.
In this example the 21 year old is exploiting the boy’s want for a relationship by saying he/she will be his partner, but only if they have sex.
A 14 year old boy wants some cigarettes and is offered some by a 19 year old, who is going around town selling cheap alcohol and cigarettes. The 14 year old says he does not have any money, so the 19 year old says he/she will give the 14 year old boy a pack of cigarettes for free, if he shows how tough he is, by stripping naked and running down the street.
In this example the 19 year old exploits the boy’s want for cigarettes by using the situation to see the boy naked.
A drunken 16 year old boy has lost his phone and his money and needs to get a taxi home. A 28 year old drives up to him and offers him a lift home. The 16 year old gets into the car, and as they drive off, the 28 year old tells the 16 year old that he will only be allowed out of the car if he does something sexual to the 28 year old.
In this example the 28 year old can see the boy is drunk and exploits the boy’s need for a lift home by locking him in the car and forcing him into doing something sexual.
A 15 year old boy starts going to some late night house parties with some older friends and wants to continue going. The 30 year old, who organises the house parties, tells the 15 year old that he is drinking the alcohol that’s there, but isn’t paying for it. The 30 year old encourages the 15 year to take part in ‘spin the bottle’, saying it’s just a bit of fun and that he can then forget about having to pay for alcohol. The 15 year old plays ‘spin the bottle’ and when the bottle lands on him, he is dared to flash his bum. The 15 year old does not know that other older people at the party are paying the 30 year old to organise this.
In this example the 30 year old exploits the boy’s want for going to the house party by allowing the boy to still go to the parties, but only if he engages in risky sexual behaviour, which is seen by older people at the party, who pay the 30 year old to get the boy there.
A 13 year old boy goes to his 40 year neighbour’s house after school, and waits there until his Mum comes home. The 40 year old gives the 13 year old boy money when he masturbates in front of him. The 13 year old is OK with this, as long as the 40 year old doesn’t touch him.
In this example the 40 year old exploits the boy’s want for money by telling him he will give him some, but only if he does something sexual.
Why Boys Sometimes Don’t Say Anything
“I’m too ashamed”
Boys can sometimes feel ashamed, guilty and embarrassed when they discover that they have been sexually exploited. It's important to remember that the people who have sexually exploited boys and young men know that it’s wrong and that they are breaking the law. These people hope that the boys and young men they have sexually exploited will feel ashamed, guilty and embarrassed and they will try to make them feel this way and stop them from telling anyone. It is important that boys and young men have access to support, and that no mater how ashamed, guilty or embarrassed they feel, they are supported in a way that is non-judgemental.
“No one will believe me”
Some boys and young men also don't want to tell anyone what's happened to them, because they think no one will believe them. If they tell someone that they have been sexually exploited they should always be believed and offered the right support.
“It will make things worse”
Some boys and young men also think that telling someone can make the situation worse, and that it could result in them, their friends or family being threatened or attacked. If boys and young men have decided to tell someone what is happening to them, and are concerned about consequences, this should be discussed with the boy/young man and worked with delicately in the appropriate way.
“I don’t know what’s happening to me”
Some boys and young men don’t tell anyone about the situation they are in, because they sometimes don’t actually know what’s happening to them, and that someone is benefiting sexually, financially or in other ways, from them doing sexual things, or something involving nudity. Some boys and young men don’t realise that what is happening to them is wrong.
“I’m not Gay”
Some boys and young men don’t want anyone to know about the situation they are in, as they may be worried people may think they could be gay (if they aren’t gay). If the perpetrator is male, boys and young men can also start feeling confused about their sexuality/sexual orientation. It’s important to remember that sexuality and sexual orientation should not be focused on when supporting boys and young men who have been sexually exploited, and that if a boy/young man sustains an erection whilst being exploited, it does not mean they are. Remember, a physical response is not an emotional one.
“I don’t want Police or Social Care involved”
Some boys and young men who have experienced sexual exploitation are worried that the police may see them as ‘trouble’ rather than someone who has been the victim of crime. Others think getting services such as the police and social care involved may make things worse rather than better. If a boy/young man is asking for support it is important to listen to that request without focusing inappropriately on the boy/young man’s history.
“What’s the point?”
Some boys and young men don’t tell anyone about their situation (or they aren’t bothered if anyone knows) because they don’t think anything will change, or that anyone will care.
“I can deal with it myself”
Some boys and young men don’t tell anyone what’s happening to them because they think they can (or should) deal with it themselves. This can be because the boys/young men have the idea that being a male means they have to display a certain amount of masculinity and give the image that they are tough and can look after themselves. No matter how tough someone thinks they are, it can always be useful for them to get support. No one should have to deal with being sexually exploited alone.
“I just ignored it”
Some boys and young men explain that they have been approached off and online, and been asked to do sexual things, sometimes for money. They go on to say that they told the men/women to just get lost. Whilst it’s good to hear that they are keeping themselves safe, these people could find another young people to try and exploit. It’s important to pass this type of information on to the police with the aim of stopping this person/people from exploiting others. The BLAST Project can support you with this.
“It was just a bit of fun”
Some boys and young men who experience sexual exploitation say that it was just a bit of fun, no one got hurt and that no one forced anyone into doing anything they didn’t want to do. It’s important to remember that something can sometimes start out as a bit of fun and lead on to something much more dangerous. Whether it’s fun or not, the person exploiting the boy/young man is still breaking the law and has power and control over the boy/young man.
“It was ages ago”
Some boys and young men believe that because the exploitation happened ages that there’s no point in talking about it, or getting help for it now. When someone experiences sexual exploitation it can be something that affects them in various ways, and it can be useful to get support regardless if the exploitation happened last week or last year. With support from the BLAST Project information could be passed on to the police, which could potentially help find the person/people that exploited boys/young men and stop them from doing it to others.
“I love him/her or they’re my mates”
Some boys and young men have feelings for the person in their life that others suspect is grooming/sexually exploiting him. This person may be the boy/young man’s friend, boyfriend, girlfriend or family member. This can cause the boy/young man to feel confused between what is the right and wrong thing to do/say, and they can often start covering up for this person, keeping secrets and telling lies. Boys and young men don’t always feel that they are being abused/exploited so they don’t often tell anyone about what’s happening to them as they know the person in their life may get into trouble and they don’t want to be separated from this person. They also don’t always see what the problem is. It’s important to encourage boys/young men to be involved in safe, healthy and equal relationships and that when a boy/young man who is associating with someone who is suspected of grooming/sexual exploitation, that they are supported in a way that is respectful and non-judgemental, whilst promoting safety.
“I don’t want to lose what I get”
Some boys and young men who experience sexual exploitation know that what is happening to them is wrong, but they are willing to continue experiencing the abuse/exploitation because they don’t feel or realise that they have any other choice, and they also get something they really need or want. This could be drugs, a relationship, money or something else. If a boy/young man thinks he will stop getting what he needs/wants, he may not tell anyone about the situation he is in. It’s important to remember that boys/young men in this situation can be offered support to increase safety and lower the risk.
“It only happens to girls”
Some boys think that only girls and young women can be sexually exploited. The truth is that boys and young men are groomed and sexually exploited by different people in many different ways every day.
The people that groom and sexually exploit boys and young men can be very clever and sometimes work with groups of other people. They can often tell lies and do a good job of making you think that they are a safe person to be around. People usually groom boys and young men before sexually exploiting them. Click What is Grooming for more information.