Young People

You’ve heard about it, but what does it really mean?

Sexual exploitation can be difficult to spot, because at first you may think you are in a good relationship with the person or people who want to abuse your trust in them. It could be a friend, or group of friends. It could be someone you think of as your girlfriend or boyfriend.

It could be someone you have just met, or known for a long time, or just talked to online.

Whoever it is, they could use ways to take advantage of your relationship – and that means you could be harmed almost before you know what’s going on. You could be taken advantage of.

For example, someone might give you a mobile phone, money, drugs, alcohol, other gifts or somewhere to stay then encourage you do one or more of these things in return:

  • Have sex with them.
  • Do something sexual to them.
  • Be touched inappropriately in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable.
  • Look at sexual images, including films or pictures.
  • Watch them do something sexual, including having sex or touching themselves sexually.

It’s important to look out for sign like these and others, that someone’s behaviour towards you may not be all it seems.

It’s not always easy to tell who you can trust. Sexual exploitation can happen to you, no matter what your gender, age or background.

Questions and answers

What is online grooming?

Online grooming is when a person over the age of 18 contacts a child under 16 to form a trusting relationship, with the intention of later engaging in a sexual act either via mobile telephone, webcam or in person.

The relationship starts online and is often continued in person. In some cases the relationship is purely online. Online groomers are known to spend weeks, months and even years communicating with a child to form a trusted relationship.

Who are online groomers and how do they get my attention?

Online groomers can be both men and women of any age over 18, although they may not always be honest about their age. They generally get your attention by using flattery and building a ‘trusting’ relationship with you. At times you maybe unaware of the type of information you are giving them, but you do it because you feel comfortable talking to them.

What is the risk of sending images of myself?

If you decide to send pictures of yourself or post them online, you can attract unwanted attention from people you don’t know or people you do not want to be talking to. You can lose control of your image and not know who is looking at your picture or where it may end up.

If you are under the age of 18 and have a picture taken of yourself, wearing minimal or no clothing, it can be referred to as child pornography.

What is sexting?

Sexting is a term used to describe the sexually explicit text messages or images sent via a mobile telephone or the internet to anybody.

Law enforcement calls this type of behaviour the production, distribution and possession of child pornography through the use of a carriage service (mobile technologies and the internet).

You could face serious penalties if you decide to send this type of image or message. You should never feel pressured into saying or doing anything like this. If someone really loves or cares about you they will never ask you to do this.

Think about how this image or message can affect you, your family and your friends if it was to be widely distributed. This type of behaviour can affect you both short and long term.

What is being done about it in Rochdale?

All council staff and Police officers have received child sexual exploitation awareness training and it is every officers’ responsibility to spot the warning signs of sexual exploitation when interacting with young people. The Sunrise Team has specially trained staff dedicated to this type of specialist investigation. Similar teams are working across the country. Unfortunately child sexual exploitation is happening across the UK.

Warning signs

Someone may try to get to know you better by giving you lots of attention and making you feel really special. They may buy you gifts or involve you in activities that seem exciting or fun, take you to parties and give you access to drugs and alcohol. That person then gradually starts to try ways of controlling you, such as making promises they can’t keep, threatening you or even becoming violent if you don’t do what they want.

They may try to isolate you from your friends, family and other people you care for. When that happens it’s easier for the abuser to put you in dangerous situations or force you to do things you don’t want to do – with them, or people you know. They are not doing you a favour – they are exploiting you.

Step by step advice

Be aware, and follow this advice:

1. Trust yourself to know when something is wrong. If someone makes you feel unsafe, pressured or frightened, follow your instincts and ask for help.

2. Don’t trust people you don’t really know – even if they seem friendly, and make sure you know who you are talking to online. Never give away personal details or agree to meet someone you have only talked to online.

3. Don’t be tricked into doing things that are unsafe, even if they seem like fun. What might look exciting at first could be a lot more dangerous than you realise.

If you are concerned about a situation you or a friend may be in, talk to an adult that you trust as soon as you can. People who can help you include teachers, parents, carers and social workers.

How to report it

If there is an adult you trust and feel you can talk to, like a teacher or family member, you should let them know what’s happened.

If you are worried that you or one of your friends are being taken advantage of and pressured into doing things you don’t want to do, this is not a healthy relationship, contact the police on 101.

If you are in immediate danger dial 999.

Contact the Sunrise Team

t. 0161 856 1734

8.30am – 4.45pm Monday to Friday


If you are in immediate danger or want urgent help please call 999.