Its Not OK: sexual abuse & exploitation
Barnardo’s produced some ‘keep safe’ tips as part of their ‘Real Love Rocks‘ work with schools. They have kindly let us recreate them here.
- Stick with mates a similar age to you – a good mate won’t ask you to do stuff you’re uncomfortable with.
- If you feel you can’t say no, ask yourself: ‘Am I in a safe situation?’
- If someone offers you something for free, ask what they want in return.
- Listen to your body – a fast, pounding heartbeat and churning stomach are signs you feel unsafe.
- Be careful what personal details – including photos – you give out online, by phone, or in real life.
- Make sure you know where you are going and how to get home. Have credit and charge on your phone.
- Make sure someone you trust always knows where you are.
- Drinking and taking drugs can make you unaware of unsafe situations and you can become a target for people who may hurt you.
Spot the signs - are you being sexually exploited?
It’s not OK for someone to:
- Threaten to end your relationship if you don’t have sex
- Ask or make you have sex with other people
- Expect sex in return for food or a place to stay
- Share drugs or alcohol with you in return for sexual acts
- Threaten to stop being friends if you don’t perform sexual ‘dares’
- Give you gifts or money in return for sexual acts
- Ask you to take sexual photos of yourself or share them online or by text
- Threaten to humiliate or share sexual images of you if you don’t carry out more sex acts
This isn’t a complete list, but if any of the scenarios sound familiar then you may have been sexually exploited, even if the person who did it was a friend or boyfriend. If you are under 18, this behaviour towards you is against the law. No one is allowed to do these things to you and you should get help or report it.
You should also read this list of ways to help you and your friends keep safe.
Speaking up about sexual abuse or exploitation can be upsetting and scary. We understand that you want the abuse to stop. We also understand that you might be worried about what might happen after you tell somebody. This is normal and it’s okay to feel like this.
Things you might be worried about:
what people might think
upsetting a parent or carer
making the abuse worse for yourself or a brother or sister
getting the person who’s abusing you into trouble
breaking up the family.
The most important thing is that you are safe and you feel like you can talk to somebody. We don’t want you to go through this on your own.
What happens if I tell a teacher, police officer or doctor?
If you decide to report the abuse to a teacher, police officer or doctor they have a duty to report it to a social worker. A social worker’s job is to talk with you and your family to see what the best way to keep you safe is. Lots of young people worry that they will ‘take you away’ or ‘break up the family’ – but they want to make things better for you, not worse. If they can, they will always try and sort things out in the family before they think about moving anyone out of the house.
Depending on the information they have and whether they know of your family already, a social worker may do a ‘safety check’ within seven days. This usually means a social worker coming round to speak to you and your parent or carer. If the abuse is happening at home, you can tell a teacher that you’re afraid and would prefer to speak to a social worker at school instead. You could also try and plan a bit of what you want to say before you talk to them. If you have any evidence then it’s a good idea to give them that too.
Think you or a friend might have been sexually exploited?
Want some advice or someone to talk to?
Worried about your child or a young person in your care?
It’s OK to speak to someone. Exploitation is never your fault, even if you went along with things at first. Abusers are very clever in the way they manipulate young people.
Speak to someone:
If you think that you or someone else is being sexually abused or exploited please speak to someone. This could someone you trust like you teacher or pastoral lead at school.
For support or if you’re concerned that a child has been sexually abused please contact the NSPCC 24 hour helpline Tel: 0808 800 5000 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you or someone else is at immediate risk of harm call 999.
Childline have produced the video below which shows you what happens if you contact Childline about sexual abuse.
Other people who can help: