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Healthy relationships

What is exploitation?

Sometime abuse and exploitation in a relationship can be hard to recognise because you believe you're in a good relationship. This could be with a boyfriend/girlfriend, a friend, a group of friends, or someone you've met online. This person probably pays you a lot of attention and makes you feel special. But, whoever it is, if they want to abuse your trust in them they'll use clever ways to take advantage of your relationship and you may not realise this until you've suffered harm.

These are some of the warning signs of sexual exploitation that you should be aware of:

Someone might give you:

  • Money
  • Gifts - such as a mobile phone, clothing or jewellery
  • Alcohol
  • Drugs
  • A place to stay
  • Access to parties

...usually in return for:

  • Having sex with them, or a friend of theirs
  • Doing something sexual to them
  • Being touched inappropriately, in a way that makes you feel uncomfortable
  • Making you look  at sexual images
  • Watching them do something sexual

Over time they may become controlling and violent towards you, use threats and/or isolate you from your family and friends.

Use Barnardo’s top three tips to keep yourself safe from exploitation:

  1. Trust yourself to know when something's wrong. If someone makes you feel unsafe, pressured or frightened, follow your instincts and seek help.
  2. Don’t trust people you don’t know, even if they seem friendly - and make sure you know who you're talking to online. Never give away personal details or agree to meet someone who you've 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 more dangerous than you realise.