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What is sexual exploitation?

Taken from Barnardos.org.uk

Sexual exploitation can be hard to recognise because you often believe you’re 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 a boyfriend or girlfriend. It could be a person or a new group of people you’ve only just got to know. It could be someone you’ve talked to online.

But whoever it is, they could use clever ways to take advantage of your relationship – and that means you can be harmed almost before you know what’s going on. For example, someone might give you money, drugs, alcohol, gifts or somewhere to stay and then force you to 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.

That’s why it’s so important to look out for the warning signs that someone’s behaviour towards you may not be all it seems.

What if I think me or a friend has / is being exploited?

If you are worried about a situation that you or a friend is in, talk to an adult that you trust as soon as you can. People who can help you include anyone at a Unity Sexual Health Service, your GP doctor, teachers, parents, carers and social workers.

You may also want to contact one of Barnardo’s specialist sexual exploitation projects for advice, or to talk to someone about what you’ve been through. The one in Bristol is called BASE.

You can also call Child Line on 0800 11 11

Read more in this helpful leaflet from Barnardos.

What is a Forced marriage?

A forced marriage is when the bride or groom is pressurised into getting married and one or both parties have no choice. Pressure and abuse is used to make them marry.  This pressure can be varied and involve physical, psychological, financial, sexual and emotional pressure.

Who does is affect?

Forced marriage affects both men and women, of different ages, communities and backgrounds.  Forced marriage is not a ‘cultural or religious’ issue, and to discuss it as such denies a voice to those from other communities who have experienced it.

Is an arranged marriage the same as a forced marriage?

No. An arranged marriage is when the families are involved in helping to choose the marriage partner, but it is the choice of both the bride and groom whether they want to get married or not. A forced marriage is when they have no choice or feel that they have no choice.

Why does forced marriage take place?

Forced marriage takes place in countries all around the world, and is not something which is practiced by only one community. There are many reasons given for why this takes place such as:

  • Custom
  • Maintaining ‘honour’
  • Controlling someone’s sexuality and preventing them from being ‘promiscuous’
  • Preventing ‘unwanted’ behaviour (such as drug/alcohol abuse)
  • Making someone marry to get access to money
  • Preserving cultural or religious traditions
  • Preventing ‘unsuitable’ relationships e.g. outside of ethnic/religious or cultural groups
  • Assisting claims for UK residence and citizenship

Does my religion mean that I have to go through with a forced marriage?

No. All major religions believe that everyone has the right to decide who they marry and should not be married to someone against their will.


What to do if you are at risk

If you or anyone you know thinks they are at risk of being forced into a marriage, it is important that you tell a trusted adult like a teacher as soon as possible and contact the Forced Marriage Unit (FMU) on 020 7008 0151

There are ways that you can be protected so that you don’t have to go through with the marriage and you can get confidential help and advice.

What is FGM?

FGM or female genital mutilation is not legal in the UK. Further information can be found here.

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