Recognise some of the warning signs of sexual exploitation in either yourself or your friend but unsure what to do next? If it's your friend try talking to them and encouraging them to speak to someone. Or tell a trusted adult about your worries and contact one of the organisations that are there to help.


During the pandemic

We are all spending more time online for learning, working and socialising. This means that we are all at increased risk of harms that can occur online. More information is available on how to keep yourself and your child safe in the digital environment.

Talk to your friend about sexual exploitation. 

Talking about sexual exploitation can be a very difficult and upsetting thing to do – for both you and your friend.

Often, offenders will lie to their victims and tell them – wrongly – that the abuse is their own fault. This means your friend might be feeling guilty and ashamed. They may also be scared of the offender and what they might do if anyone was to find out that your friend has talked about what’s happening.

Quite possibly, your friend won’t want to talk about it at first. So here are some suggestions on how to encourage them to open up to you.

Choose the time and place

Try and think of somewhere quiet and private. Choose somewhere your friend will feel safe to talk honestly and where they won’t be overheard or seen if they get upset.

Allow plenty of time for your conversation

It might take a long while for your friend to open up about the subject and you may have to ask several times before they’ll talk. It might also take several conversations spread out over a period of time so be prepared for this. Don’t give up after the first attempt.

Sit side by side if you can

Sitting side by side, rather than face to face, can make it easier to talk about a difficult subject. It means your friend won’t have to look you in the eye if they don’t want to.

Think about how you'll begin

It can help to think about how you’ll start the conversation. You might want to begin by saying something like:

“You haven’t been yourself lately. Is there anything I could to do to help?”

“I’ve missed you being online recently and wondered if you were avoiding it. Has someone or something upset you?”

“I was surprised when I saw you had a new phone – I thought you only got a little pocket money. Then you got new trainers too. I hope you don’t think I’m being nosy but I care about you and wanted to check if everything is okay?”

Don't give up

You might find that your friend won’t talk at first or that they pretend everything’s okay. If this happens, don’t force it but do let them know that if they ever do feel like talking about things you promise to listen and try to help. Try to keep in touch with your friend even if they push you away as they may be scared of what might happen if anyone finds out what is going on.

Don't promise not to tell

If your friend is brave enough to talk to you about their abuse, they might ask you to promise not to tell anyone. If they do, be gentle but firm. Explain that to help them you need to be able to tell an adult.

This might make your friend upset or make them clam up

You might feel like you’re letting them down in some way. But remember, you’re doing the right thing. By telling an adult that you trust you’ll not only help your friend but possibly stop the offender from hurting anyone else.


Tell an adult

If you think that you or your friend are at risk of or experiencing sexual exploitation, it’s important you tell someone as soon as possible. 

Choose an adult you can trust. For example, you could go to your mum or dad, a teacher at school, your doctor, the local police or a youth worker or social worker if you know one. 

Like you, they may be shocked and upset at first but the sooner you tell them the sooner they can decide who to contact for help. 

Here are some suggestions:

​In immediate danger? Call 999.

Worried that you or your friend is in immediate danger? Don’t wait – call 999 and tell the police what you know.

Been approached online or experiencing sexual abuse?

CEOP is here to help young people who are being approached online about sex or are suffering sexual abuse.

If someone is making you feel uncomfortable about sex you should report to CEOP. This might be someone:

  • Making you have sex when you don’t want to
  • Chatting about sex online
  • Asking you to do sexual things on webcam
  • Asking you to meet up if you’ve only met them online
  • Asking for sexual pictures of you
  • Making you feel unsafe

Simply go to the CEOP Safety Centre then look for the yellow button that says ‘Make a CEOP report.’

​Looking for advice? Talk to the experts.

If you or your friend would like advice, information or support on any aspect of child sexual exploitation, you can call the ChildLine on 0800 1111. It’s available 24 hours of the day. Calls are free and don’t appear on the bill payer’s statement.

If you tell an adult, they can get advice on what to do next by calling the NSPCC’s free helpline on 0808 800 5000.

​Want to know more about staying safe?

Check out for advice, help and information on how to stay safe on mobile phones, online and in relationships.