What is Exploitation?

The word exploitation means to make use of something or someone in a way which is not fair. It can be used in lots of different scenarios, but when we use it, we are talking about somebody treating a child or young person in a way that is unfair and dishonest, for their own gain. It is about somebody taking advantage of somebody else to get something they want.  


When we talk about exploitation in a safeguarding context, we are talking about a type of abuse that can include one or more of:  

If somebody is under 18 when they are exploited it is a form of child abuse. The terms Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) and Child Criminal Exploitation (CCE) are used when people under 18 are exploited in these ways.  

When somebody is exploited, it is never their fault.

Perpetrators of sexual exploitation might be: 

  • An adult or another young person 
  • Any gender or sex 
  • Any ethnicity, religion, or nationality 
  • Any sexuality 
  • In a position of trust or power (such as a youth worker, sports coach, religious leader, teacher, police officer, a celebrity) 
  • Involved in other criminal activities (such as drug dealing, violence, organised crime) 
  • Friendly, believable and attractive 
  • Somebody the victim has known a long time, or somebody they have just met 
  • A friend of a friend 
  • Somebody online or on social media 

Victims of sexual exploitation might be: 

  • Any gender or sex; male, female, nonbinary, agender or something else 
  • Any ethnicity, religion, or nationality  
  • Be attracted to males, females, both, or nobody  
  • Live with family, be in Care, live in supported accommodation or live alone 
  • Have physical health problems, disabilities, mental health problems, or learning difficulties 
  • Rich, poor, or something in between 
  • Have had sex before, or have never had sex before 
  • Top of their class, or excluded from school 
  • Have a child of their own 
  • Unaware that what is happening to them is exploitation 

Victims of sexual exploitation are never to blame for the actions of perpetrators, and have the right to be safe from harm.


YMCA enables people to develop their full potential in mind, body and spirit. Inspired by and faithful to our Christian values, we create supportive, inclusive and energising communities, where young people can truly belong, contribute and thrive.

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