You may have been forced or coerced to have sex for money by your boyfriend or a man who says he loves you. You may have experienced childhood abuse and find it difficult to cope with life. Drugs or alcohol may help you get through the night but you feel trapped in a cycle of sex work and addiction. Or perhaps you just feel that sex working is the only option you have.

Prostitution, which is also called sex work, is the exchange of sexual services for money. Prostitution itself is not a crime but the following activities are crimes in the UK:

  • Soliciting in a public place
  • Kerb crawling
  • Owning or managing a brothel
  • Pimping
  • Procuring (this includes trafficking a prostitute, operating a prostitution business and transporting a prostitute to a location of their arrangement).

In addition, it is illegal in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to:

  • Pay for sex with a prostitute who has been subjected to force. Clients can be prosecuted even if they didn’t know the prostitute was forced.

Sexual exploitation can happen to any young person – whatever their background, age, gender, race or sexuality or wherever they live. Risk factors include:

What research tells us about risk factors

Gender, age, ethnicity and missing children

In 2011, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) published a thematic assessment analysing 2,083 victims of child sexual exploitation (CEOP, 2011). The study found that:

  • the majority of victims were girls
    However in 31% of cases, gender was unknown. It is likely that male victims are under-represented due to difficulties in identifying sexual exploitation in boys and young men.
  • 14 and 15 year olds are most likely to be noticed by authorities
    Some victims of sexual exploitation were as young as 9 or 10 years old, however young people most commonly came to the attention of statutory and non-statutory authorities aged 14 or 15.
  • the majority of victims were white
    61% of the victims were white, 3% were Asian and 1% were black. Ethnicity was unknown in 33% of cases. Children from minority ethnic backgrounds are likely to be under-represented in statistics because of barriers to reporting and accessing services.
  • children who go missing are risk of sexual exploitation.
    Information about whether children went missing was incomplete but 842 children were reported as missing on at least one occasion. We don't know whether these children were sexually exploited before, during or after they went missing.


Prostitute talking with client on the street
depressive junge Frau
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