Being loved, or being used?
Think about all your different relationships.
They could be with close friends, a boyfriend or girlfriend – and maybe groups of friends from school or the area you live in.
As we grow up, we develop relationships with lots of different people. It’s how we learn what we enjoy about a relationship and what we don’t.
But things can go wrong along the way and people might try to use you or force you to do something you don’t want to do.
Some people form relationships with young people to use them for sex.
People who do this want young people to think they are a friend, or a boyfriend or girlfriend. They want to gain their trust to get power over them. They might also use bribes, threats, humiliation and even violence to get power over them.
They use that power to force them to have sex, or do sexual things, with them and sometimes with other people. This is sexual exploitation and it’s a crime.
It happens to boys and girls and can be really hard to spot. Often people think they’re in a good relationship, even after things have turned bad.
But there are warning signs. It’s really important that you know how to spot them so you can protect yourself and your friends.
Have you met someone new? 5 signs they are not all they seem
It can be hard to spot when someone is using you. Here are some possible signs:
1) To get to know you they give you lots of attention.
We all like attention and it’s nice to feel wanted. But if someone tries to get to know by giving you lots of attention, ask yourself – what do they really want?
2) They give you gifts, like phone credit, alcohol, drugs or jewellery.
This can be exciting and make you feel good about someone but if they want sex in return they are trying to exploit you.
3) They try to isolate you from your friends or family.
They will say that they are the only person you need. They might tell you that your friends or family won’t understand or you’ll be in trouble. Remember, the people who care about you will want to protect you.
4) They have mood swings.
If someone flips between being ‘very nice’ and ‘very nasty’, you can feel like you need to do things to keep them happy. This can be a sign they are trying to control you.
5) They control you with promises and threats.
Abusers use many tricks to control young people. They may make promises they can’t keep, ask them to keep secrets or threaten them. Some become violent.
It’s really important you feel safe in any relationship you’re in.
If someone makes you feel unsafe, pressured or frightened, follow your instincts and get help
Even if they seem friendly, exciting or offer you gifts. Ask yourself – why are they being nice and doing me favours? What do they want in return?
If you feel nervous about doing something, try to find a way out of the situation and seek help from someone you trust.
If someone really cares about you they won’t put any pressure on you. If you don’t feel you can say no, ask yourself, are you really in a safe situation?
Keep contact details of an adult you trust with you, written down and on your phone. Keep your phone topped up with credit.
Are you worried you’re being exploited?
If you are worried about a situation that you, or a friend, is in you should talk to an adult you trust as soon as you can. People who can help include parents, teachers, police officers social workers and youth workers
Childline is a free, confidential helpline. If you need someone to talk to at anytime call them on 0800 1111 to speak to a counsellor or visit www.childline.org.uk
Barnardo’s is a children’s charity who run lots of services for young people who are being sexually exploited. To find one near you visit: www.barnardos.org.uk
There are lots of organisations in the UK who support young people who are being sexually exploited. You can find one near you through the National Sexual Exploitation Working Group services directory:
Click on the region of the map where you live for a list of people who can help.
CEOP helps young people who are being sexually abused or are worried that someone they’ve met is trying to abuse them.
If you’ve met someone online, or face to face, and they are putting you under pressure to have sex or making you feel uncomfortable you should report to CEOP.
This might be someone:
- Making you have sex when you donʼt want to
- Chatting about sex online
- Asking you to meet up face to face if youʼve only met them online
- Asking you to do sexual things on webcam
- Asking for sexual pictures of you
- Making you feel worried, anxious or unsafe
If this is happening to you, or you’re worried that it might be, you can report this to CEOP.
The internet can be a great way to meet new people. It’s worked for many and could do for you, providing you take steps to protect yourself.
A million pound industry
Online dating is worth hundreds of millions of pounds. People are hooking up all over the internet. It can be just for fun, or it can get serious. Love, lust, jealousy: an online relationship involves all the emotions of an offline one. But there are some big differences.
Some people find it easier to type their true thoughts than admit to them face-to-face. So in some ways you get more honesty online. You might learn about someone much faster in a chat window than on a date.
On the other hand, the internet is the perfect place to tell lies: some small, some huge. It’s easy to create a whole new identity, and you can never be 100% sure that the person you’re talking to is who they say they are.
If you get involved with someone online, you need proof of who they really are before you even consider taking the relationship further.
Remember that photos are no guarantee.
Keeping it real
Apply the same rules to online relationships that you would to encounters in the real world. It’s great to flirt, but set clear boundaries.
If people get obsessive, abusive or have mood swings, back off.
And remember, it might take time before you can fully trust someone.
Stepping it up
Webcams and phone chats can get quite full on. It’s normal to feel nervous about having intimate conversations online. You should only go as far as you want and never feel pressured into anything you’re not comfortable with.
The final option is meeting up. It could work, but make sure you know the dangers and be really careful before you even consider it.
Alternatively, you might never want your relationship to leave the chat room, that’s fine too.
Don’t give your real name on gaming sites.
Best not to have anyone on your IM (instant messaging) list that you don’t know in the real world.
You can block people in IM and chat areas.
Be careful how much personal information you give out on public facing platforms.
Tell an adult you trust if an online friend asks to meet you.