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Luton Borough Council

Sexual exploitation


What is sexual exploitation?

Sexual exploitation is the sexual abuse of children, young people or vulnerable adults in exchange for food, drugs, shelter, protection, other basic necessities and/or money.

Sexual exploitation could be part of a seemingly consensual relationship, or be used for 'payment' for attention, affection, money, drugs, alcohol or somewhere to stay.

The person being exploited may believe their abuser is their friend, boyfriend or girlfriend. The abuser may:

  • physically or verbally threaten the victim
  • take indecent photographs of them and circulate to others
    be violent towards them
  • try to isolate them from friends and family.

What are the signs of sexual exploitation?

Sexual exploitation is a largely hidden form of abuse, although a number of recent high profile cases have helped increase awareness.
Possible signs of sexual exploitation include; unexpected or unexplained changes in behaviour, sudden withdrawal from social activities, cutting off ties with friends and family, fixation with a new mobile phone and a desire to hide who they are talking to. There may also be signs of sexual abuse, such as bruising, injury or sexually transmitted diseases.
Often people who are being sexually exploited are unaware that they are victims of such abuse. Below you’ll find some examples of situations where sexual exploitation could be taking place;
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Helen is a 23 year old woman who lives at home with her parents. She attended a special needs school as a child and young adult. She does not have many friends and is lonely. She has been befriended by a man who runs a take away. Helen has told her parents that he is her boyfriend and she often stays out all night. She has a mobile phone that her boyfriend has given her and he will call her and take her to parties with his male friends. Often she comes home from these parties distressed by what has happened to her with bruising on her body and dirty smelly clothes. She has told her mother that she loves this man and his mates are just being friendly. Helen has said that her boyfriend thinks her mother should mind her own business and leave her alone.

Amy and Beth are good friends and flat mates in their 20’s. They live in supported accommodation and volunteer at local charity shops. They have been attending a local get- fit class together. A group of men have befriended Amy and Beth. They met outside the get fit class where the men always happened to be. Amy and Beth have told their support workers about parties that they have had at their flat and where both of them have got drunk. Support staff have noticed that men’s clothes are in the wardrobes as well as other items being stored in the house such as computers and telephones. Beth says that one of the men is her boyfriend and she is worried about having a baby. Amy says she does not have a boyfriend but they are all her special friends. Amy and Beth are now saying that they want to give up their work and they don’t want the support workers to come any more.

Michael is 30 and has a history of self harming. He was recently admitted into hospital because he tried to commit suicide. He has disclosed that he has been kept as a prisoner by a couple and was used for sex by a group of men. He would be taken to places – back rooms in pubs and such like. He says that he has been too afraid to say anything before but he now just wants to die and doesn’t care what happens to him.

What are we doing to combat sexual exploitation?

We are committed to preventing all sexual exploitation and intervening to protect and support victims. The most effective way to tackle this abuse is by working together with other agencies and local partners.

Tackling the sexual abuse of children, young people and vulnerable adults such as those with learning disabilities, is of the utmost importance for Luton Safeguarding Children Board and the Luton Safeguarding Adults Board, along with partners across Bedfordshire such as Bedfordshire Police.

What should I do if I think that sexual exploitation is happening?

If you are concerned about possible sexual exploitation you must report it to the police or the Luton Safeguarding Adults Team. Remember, if in doubt – shout!

Multi-Agency Safeguarding Hub (MASH)
Telephone: 01582 547653
Email: [email protected]
Telephone Out of Hours: 0300 300 8123

Contact Bedfordshire Police
101 for non emergency situations or 999 in an emergency



Contact info
Adults safeguarding team

Tel: 01582 547730

[email protected]


© 2023 Luton Council, Town Hall, Luton LU1 2BQ