What is exploitation anyway?
You may have heard the word “exploitation” in the news, at school or online. You may have seen words like “county lines” and “grooming,” but what does it all mean and why are people so worried about it?
Exploitation is when someone, or a group of people tricks or misleads you into doing things for them that are not right; either criminally or sexually.
It can happen with anyone; a friend, a gang or group of mates, a boyfriend or girlfriend, someone who you chat to online, it can be someone you’ve just met or someone you’ve known for ages. Someone who you think cares for you; but they don’t. They are taking advantage of you to get you to do things that are to their benefit. This is sometimes called ‘grooming’.
They can do this by giving you all sorts of stuff; like money, food, nice clothes, phones, game credits, status, a sense of belonging and ‘fitting in’ and it first it seems great. They can also give you their time and attention, their love and affection (the things that you may not feel like you are getting off anyone else).
They can make it feel you feel valued; like your relationship is the most important thing in the world (to them and you) and make you feel so special. But remember the phrase “nothing in life is free” – they are giving you all this stuff for a reason, they are manipulating you because they want something back from you.
At first you may think, sure why not? .… even though you know it could get you into trouble; who cares? No-one knows about it and you are onto a good thing here. Right…?
…but then you are trapped. Made to do things that you really don’t want to do, things that you know aren’t right. You want to stop, but the person or group who seemed to value and care for you before have changed and become more unpleasant; threatening you, blackmailing you, hurting you…abusing you.
This is what exploitation can look like, it’s not right and it’s a form of abuse. All children and young people have a right to feel safe and should be protected from all forms of abuse.
If you are exploited it’s really important to understand that it is never your fault, the people who do it are abusing you – they are in the wrong, not you.
A quick word about language:
You may often hear words and phrases used by the people around you (either by family, your mates or professionals like police and school) linked to exploitation and you might not be sure what they mean. If in doubt head over to our jargon buster page to find out.
Types of exploitation:
There are lots of different types of child exploitation; its important to remember that more than one can be happening at any one time.
Being encouraged, tricked or forced to take part in a sexual activity (like having sex with someone, performing a sexual act, or sending/receiving indecent images) in exchange for something. It can happen face to face or online, with individuals or in groups.
Being encouraged, tricked or forced to take part in criminal activities (like stealing, selling or holding drugs) An example of this is “County lines”; This is where you are exploited to transport drugs from one place to another (it can be from large cities to smaller rural areas, but it could be from one street to another). The ‘county line’ is the mobile phone line used to manage the deals and transportation of the drugs.
This is like any form of exploitation that can happen with people face to face, but this is happening in the online world, through things like chat, social media and online gaming.
Trafficking and Modern Slavery:
Being tricked, forced or persuaded to leave where you live and then moved or transported from one area to another to work or perform sexual or criminal acts. It can include people being moved from one county to another, but can also include the movement from one town to another.
What exploitation can look like?
‘Sextortion’ is a form of blackmail. It involves threatening to publish sexual information, photos or videos about someone. This may be to extort money or to force the victim to do something against their will.
Exploitation and Mate crime
A member of the Police Fire and Crime Commissioner Youth Forum has shared a specially made resource for Be Aware. He has made a short social media-style animation raising awareness of mate crime & exploitation of young people with disabilities, including, what mate crime is, signs to look for and why it’s important.
Exploitation can look different for everybody, here are some links to some examples of peoples experiences:
Harrogate Safer Communities, alongside NYCC Ripon & Rural Children and Families Service produced the below video to show how criminal exploitation can happen in North Yorkshire:
Real stories of Sexual exploitation can be found here:
Not in Our Community have produced a series of great videos, highlighting what different forms of exploitation can look like for young people and those around them. You can view some below, but the full range can be accessed on their YouTube channel here.
More real stories of exploitation in North Yorkshire can be found in our “Our Stories from our County” section.
Why are people so bothered about it?
Exploitation is a form of abuse, it is never ok. Some young people are too terrified about what may happen to them if they speak out and tell people its happening. They may feel trapped and unable to get out.
Some young people never understand that what has happened to them is exploitation and something that is wrong. They may not believe that they are a victim of someone grooming them, and feel that they have agreed to what they have been asked to do, based on what they believe to be a healthy relationship with someone they love and trust. This is what ‘groomers’ are very clever at doing and it’s important to understand that it’s never a victims fault.
When someone has been exploited in any way it can massive short and long term effects, both for the victim and the people around them (family and friends).
- It can affect your mental health.
- It can impact how well you do in school and make it difficult to get a job in the future.
- It can put you in dangerous and abusive situations.
- It can affect the relations with the people around you who really care for you (groomers are very good at making you feel that no-one else cares but them).
So people are bothered about it, because it’s wrong! It causes massive damage to young people and those who love and care for them and we want it to stop.
We want as many people to know about it as possible so we can all try our best to keep ourselves and the people we care about safe from it.