Heard that all offenders are creepy old men? Or been told that it’s only young girls that need to worry? You’re not alone. There are all sorts of myths going around about sexual exploitation.

Here, we bust some of the most common myths, arming you with the facts and offering you tips on how to keep yourself out of danger.


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.

If you are being abused it's your fault

The only person to blame for child sexual exploitation is the person doing the abusing. The offender may tell you it’s your fault. They may also tell you that everyone else will think the same. However this is all part of the abuse, to stop you telling someone and getting help.

Tip: Don’t ever think abuse is your fault or that you somehow caused it or asked for it. Also, don’t ever think it’s too late to take control. Talk to an adult you trust or contact our list of people who care and want to help you.


Only girls are at risk

Anyone under the age of 18 can be a victim of child sexual exploitation. Boy or girl, young child or teenager. The common link offenders look out for is a weak spot as their way in. This could be when someone is feeling unloved because of a problem at home or a fall-out with a friend. Asking for advice and support online can suggest there is a problem. People with learning disabilities are also at risk, perhaps because they don’t fully understand what’s going on or find it difficult to communicate easily.

Tip: When you’re online, read back or read aloud what you’ve written before hitting ‘send’. What impression does it give? What could it tell a stranger about you? If you have friends who struggle to understand things quickly, why not offer to do the same for them? That way, if you see anything that might put them at risk, you can talk to them about it.


Offenders are old men and easy to spot

Offenders can be young, old or anywhere in between. They can be male or female, come from any background and be attractive, successful people. All however, will take great care to appear friendly, funny and caring when they first approach their victim. That’s what makes them so hard to spot.

Tip: If, out of the blue, someone starts being really nice to you, offering you help and wanting to be your new best friend, boyfriend or girlfriend, be careful. They may not be the person they’re pretending to be. Take the relationship slowly and if you have any worries, talk to an adult you can trust.


Offenders spend time grooming their victim

Sometimes this is the case. Offenders might spend quite a lot of time grooming their victim – building up a relationship and gaining their trust before hurting or abusing them.
Increasingly however, abusers are more interested in photos or videos of the young person. They’ll start up a conversation with the young person online. Then they’ll try to turn the conversation to something sexual, working up to asking the young person to send them a photo or video.

Tip: Always keep your conversation to public places – games, chatrooms or forums – where others can see your conversation. If someone asks you to chat privately, ask yourself why. What do they want to say that they can’t say in public? If you do chat privately and they ask you to do something that makes you worried or uncomfortable, tell an adult your trust.


Photos and videos aren't really abuse

It can feel exciting, flattering or even naughty when someone asks you to share a naked photo or video of yourself. Offenders understand this. However once they have your photo or video they can use it to make you do things you don’t want to do. They might threaten to show it to your family or put it on social media sites where all your friends will see it if you don’t do what they ask. You can find out more here.

Tip: Never send, post or share a photo or video of yourself online that you wouldn’t feel comfortable with your mum, dad or teacher seeing. Don’t even send things to your girlfriend or boyfriend. Why? Because relationships can break up and people can do things out of hurt or jealousy, like sharing your photo or video. And even the kindest, most loving person can lose their phone or have their laptop stolen.