What is sexual exploitation?
Sexual exploitation involves the provision of sexual services or acts by individuals subjected to force, threats, coercion or deception designed to induce them.
As with other forms of modern slavery, sexual exploitation is largely motivated by profit, with victims forced to engage in commercial sex work, but it can include exploitation by offenders motivated by sexual gratification. Although victims can be of either sex, women and girls make up the overwhelming majority victim of sexual exploitation both in the UK and around the world.
Victims of sexual exploitation are often advertised online via adult services websites (ASWs). These legal websites provide independent sex workers with safer models of operating, enabling them to vet clients and agree services before arranging to meet. However, ASWs provide an easy access point to a very wide market, making them attractive to offenders engaged in sexual exploitation.
Sexual exploitation takes place across the UK, and can occur in brothels, hotels, short-term lets and through on-street sex work.
The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on sexual exploitation throughout 2020, likely shifting offending primarily to residential properties, as the closure of hotels and short term lets limited the ability of sex workers and offenders to operate in outcall models or pop-up brothels.