Am I or my friend being exploited?
What is Exploitation?
Exploitation is when adults trick you into doing something. This might be having sex, carrying drugs or stealing.
Sometimes it is easy to spot abuse. Other times you might not think that what’s happening to you is abuse. This is because some adults will trick you into thinking that you have said to ‘yes’ to what’s happening or that it is fun to take part in, or even good for you.
It may be that you believe, or are told that, you owe someone something, so you feel you need to do what they ask. You might have heard it being called ‘grooming’.
They might threaten you with violence if you say no. Or sometimes they might not be violent, but they can try to get you to do things in other ways – for example, making you feel really guilty or buying you gifts and presents.
Remember: none of this is ever your fault and you are not alone.
How do I know if I am being exploited? +
There are few different types of exploitation, however, there are lots of important signs to look for that might help you to recognise if it’s happening to you.
- Have you met a new group of people, who started off acting like friends, but now they’re making you do things that you don’t think are right?
- Maybe they are older and are suddenly showing you lots of attention?
- Giving you nice things, like new clothes or a new mobile phone?
- Asking, or forcing, you to do things that you don’t want to do?
- Are they encouraging you to keep secrets, or lie about where you are and what you are doing?
- Maybe you feel like you have to do certain things to keep someone happy? Do they flip if you say no?
- Is it getting harder to see your friends and family?
- Are you being threatened?
- Maybe you, or one of your friends, has a new boyfriend or girlfriend who can seem a bit controlling one minute and then really loving the next?
- Is someone encouraging you to drink alcohol or take drugs?
- Do you feel you can’t be yourself? You have to behave differently and this makes you feel uncomfortable?
Is my friend being exploited? +
Are you worried about a friend? There are some key signs that you can look out for that might tell you that something’s not right:
- Are they late a lot or not around when you expect them to be?
- Do they have unexplained gifts, or things like new clothes and more money than usual?
- Are they spending more time than usual on their phone, or using it secretively?
- Are they regularly drunk or taking drugs?
- Are they spending time with much older people they say are friends?
- Are they being picked up from home or school by someone you don’t know? Maybe someone much older?
- Are they into different hobbies and activities?
- Has the way they dress changed?
- Do they have unexplained bruises or injuries?
- Could they be self-harming?
If you notice any of these warning signs in your friend, we can offer you some advice and support on what to do next.
What to do if you are worried +
Talk to someone you trust or respect about how you are feeling – a youth worker, friend or family member or even a teacher. Talking can help you get a handle on whether what you feel is right and whether other people think it's OK.
Remember: if you’re being exploited, it is never your fault and you’re not alone.
How can I get help?
If you think you or a friend are being exploited or abused, help is available. You can contact the police direct on 101 or 999 if you are in immediate danger. You can also ring Childline for help and advice on 0800 11 11.
If you would prefer not to speak to the police you can contact Children's Services. The team to call are called the MARU and can be contacted on 0300 123 1116 during the day or 01208 251 300 after 5pm and at weekends.
This service offers independent support and information for young people aged 8 to 25 across Devon and Cornwall who are experiencing or might experience sexual exploitation: www.barnardosexceed.org.uk.
CE the signs: You may have noticed that we are running a campaign to raise everyone's awareness of exploitation... here is a link to posters and videos that you might want to look at or see if you can put up at school or in your community.