This is when someone is deceived, coerced or forced to take part in sexual activity such as street sex work and prostitution.
Places where someone could be sexually exploited include brothels, massage/sauna parlours, escort agencies, pole/lap dancing venues, forced marriage, stripping on a web cam, phone sex lines, internet chat rooms, pornography, mail order brides or sex tourism.
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 and try to isolate them from friends and family.
In Bedfordshire we have seen issues particularly around the sexual exploitation of women from Eastern European and Far East countries such as Hungary, Romania, China and Vietnam.
Human traffickers exploit victims in the sex industry because the demand for sexual services means they can generate vast criminal profits.
Unlike drugs or firearms, which are only bought or sold once, a victim being sexually exploited represents a continuous source of income for criminals.
Those paying for sex need to think about whether they are engaging with a trafficked victim. Paying for sex with someone who has been trafficked is a criminal offence, regardless of whether the person paying knows that the other person has been trafficked.
How to get help ?
Luton Against Sex Trafficking (LASE) is a partnership made up of lots of different services all working to end sexual exploitation and protect the victims.
This group is chaired by Azalea, which works with exploited women as well as offering counselling to men who by sex. You can find out more on their website.
The LAST group has also designed a toolkit designed to help communities spot the signs of sexual exploitation and how to respond. You can view and download this here.