What is sexual exploitation?

The definition of exploitation is ‘the act of treating someone unfairly for personal gain.

Sexual exploitation can be defined in several ways because it takes place in many different forms.

Loosely, it can be defined as the sexual abuse of a child or young person through the exchange of sex or sexual acts for the receival of drugs, food, shelter, protection, gifts, money or something else desired by the young person (i.e. attention or affection).

Sexual exploitation includes involving the young person in sexting and creating pornographic images and videos.

We know that sexual exploitation takes on many forms, from the seemingly ‘consensual’ relationship where sexual activity is exchanged for attention, affection, accommodation or gifts, to serious organised crime and trafficking of young people.

What is important to highlight here, is that sexual exploitation occurs when there is an imbalance of power within a relationship.

An imbalance of power within a relationship could potentially come about due to:

A large age gap between the couple...

i.e. a 14 year old dating a 20 year old


A large wealth difference between the couple...

could lead the individual with more money to provide the other with gifts and/or trips out, but only in exchange for sex or sexual acts


One partner holding more power than the other...

i.e. by dating their football coach, a young person is in an unfair/imbalanced relationship

Please get in touch with us to talk about any of the issues tackled on this page

The Green Light Project is supported by Comic Relief and Alcohol & Drugs Action