Staying Safe from Exploitation

Hello! Welcome to this information page about the risks of exploitation and how to stay safe.

Hello! Welcome to a support page to help you stay safe from exploitation and harm.


This page includes stories and advice based on real life accounts of people who have experienced exploitation.

Are you experiencing any of the following?

  • Is someone pressuring you into providing services you do not feel comfortable with?
  • Are you being forced to do something or to work in exploitative conditions because you are being told you owe them money?
  • Has a seemingly loving relationship turned into a controlling or manipulative relationship?
  • Is someone controlling your movements or sleeping arrangements?
  • Is someone in possession of your identity documents?
  • Is someone threatening you, your family, or your loved ones?
  • Is someone restricting your contact with friends and family?
  • Do you feel stuck in a situation that makes you feel unsafe?

These are some of the signs of sexual exploitation. Not all of these have to be present for it to be exploitation, one of these alone could mean you are being exploited.

Page Summary

What is Sexual Exploitation?

Sexual exploitation is when someone is deceived, coerced, or forced to take part in sexual activities.

This might be:

  • Nothing in return
  • In exchange for necessities (such as food, shelter, rent, protection, work)
  • To pay back someone who says you owe them money
  • In exchange for travel or transportation

For more information about debt bondage, click here.

Sometimes it is hard to recognise that you might be experiencing exploitation. You deserve to be safe and free from fear. Be reassured that support is available. There are organisations that can help you and that will not judge you.

Anyone can be targeted for sexual exploitation. This includes people of any age, gender, sexual orientation, nationality, or legal status. It is not your fault, and you are not alone.  

Where Can Sexual Exploitation Happen?

Sexual exploitation can happen in different places:

  • Home
  • Brothels
  • Street sexual solicitation
  • Illicit massage services
  • Bars and strip clubs
  • Online: For example, live streaming of sexual exploitation or someone using sexually explicit images of you for monetary or social gain.

For more information about online sexual exploitation, click here

Who Can Be a Perpetrator of Sexual Exploitation?

Anybody could be a perpetrator of sexual exploitation. Perpetrators can be any age, gender or nationality. They stand to benefit financially or socially. Perpetrators may include:

  • Friends, neighbours, and members of your community
  • Partners
  • Employers
  • Smugglers
  • Gang members
  • Persons in positions of trust

How Do Perpetrators Control People?

Perpetrators often force people into doing things they don’t want to do. They will pressure and force people to stay in the situation using:

  • Isolation from friends and family
  • Withholding or destroying documents
  • Debt bondage
  • Threats of violence and abuse
  • Threats of deportation
  • Threats made against friends or family

What is Debt Bondage?

Debt bondage is when someone is forced to work to repay a real or perceived debt, usually incurred through their travel.

Refugees and asylum seekers are often offered help with travel and shelter in exchange for payment later. This is a method that perpetrators use to control and exploit people and an example of debt bondage.

Often the debt grows at a rate they are unable to meet, and they have no hope of ever being free.

No one has the right to force someone to provide sexual services, even if money is owed. 

If this has happened to you, know that there are organisations in place that can offer support for this.

It is very important that whatever choice you make, you place your safety as a top priority.

Safety Advice


Take a screenshot of the below tips to save for later.

  • If approached in person or online and offered shelter or help, never agree unless you know more details.
  • Always keep your personal ID and travel documents with you. Keep them safe and never give them away.
  • Some people might speak your language or might be from your country. That does not always mean you can trust them.
  • Remember that no one has the right to force you to do anything you don’t want to, even if they say you owe them money.
  • Don’t trust someone who prevents you from contacting friends of family or takes away your mobile phone. They are trying to isolate and control you. An exploiter can be anyone, friends, family, partners, strangers.
  • Save emergency numbers in your mobile phone. If you are in danger, these numbers will give you quick access to call helplines and services.
  • If you agree to meet someone who you have only talked to online, make sure it is in a public space or that a trusted friend knows about it.
  • If offered a job, know the address of the workplace. Share the address with someone you trust.
  • If you feel like something doesn’t feel right, make sure to tell someone you trust.

If you feel like something doesn’t feel right, make sure to tell someone you trust.

For tips about how to stay safe online, click here.

Stories of Survivors - What does exploitation look like?

Here are some stories of sexual exploitation, based on real experiences.

The stories, names, characters, and incidents portrayed are anonymous.

I was earning very little at home. One day, a man approached me and promised me a job with a high salary abroad. I believed him and he helped cover my transportation fees. Upon arrival, I found out that the work was sexual services. He held my passport and restricted my movement. When I tried to leave, he would physically and psychologically abuse me and told me that I had to work to repay the transportation fees.

My advice? If you are offered a job and you feel like something doesn’t feel right, make sure to ask questions and tell someone you trust. If a job offer sounds too good to be true, be cautious. Make sure you reach out to support organisations. 

I am a transgender woman. I escaped my country because I was in danger. I left home with nothing. I was sleeping on the streets. I was kidnapped. I woke up in a brothel with other trans women. I was forced to work there. I was threatened if I resisted, they would take me to the police and send me back to my home country. I did not know about my rights. One day I managed to escape the brothel.

I found a trusted organisation that was able to help me receive the support I needed.

When I was 16, I was forced to marry an older man. I stayed with him, but he was being abusive to me. I was desperate. I met a woman from my town who knew my family and offered to help get me out. She promised me that if I followed her, I would have a better, safer life, and be able to find work. I trusted her and I thought she was saving me.

When we arrived, she kept my identity documents and held me in a house for months where I was taken advantage of by different men. I felt like I had no choice. I tried to leave. The woman who brought me threatened that bad things would happen to my family if I did not do what she asked. She told me that I had to offer services to men so I can pay her back the money she paid to travel from my home country.

My advice? Be careful who you trust. There are legitimate organisations who can help. You have the right to safety. No one should keep your documents. No one should experience what happened to me.  

I came to Türkiye to build a better life. The situation in my country is bad. I was missing home and my family. I met a man. I was in love. He lied to me. He put me to work in a brothel, kept my documents and money. The people there used oaths and witchcraft to make me stay. When I escaped, I did not know where to find help. I was desperate and scared. I went back to him, and he took me to a smuggler who took me to Greece. There I found myself in the same situation.

My advice? Do not be scared to report what happened to you. You deserve to be safe and receive support.  

If you find yourself in a similar situation, there are organisations that can offer support. For contact details, click here.

Online Sexual Exploitation

Sexual exploitation can happen online, for example through commercialized websites and social media platforms.

It can happen in different ways. Your partner (e.g. boyfriend or girlfriend or husband or wife) may use sexually explicit photos, videos or livestreams of you on the internet for monetary or social gain. If you did not agree to this or feel uncomfortable about this, this is online sexual exploitation.

In some cases, you may be contacted by someone attempting to build an intimate relationship with you through social media. Some perpetrators will make use of the anonymity of the internet and use fake profiles to conceal their identity or impersonate another person. Some may use their own social media profiles. The perpetrator may try to build trust and pretend they are interested in you romantically, or they might promise gifts or other financial assistance. They may try to manipulate you in other ways and may try to control you or threaten you if you do not do what they want.

In other cases, online sexual exploitation can occur through illegitimate job offers through fake business profiles, advertisements, websites, or event pages.

If you find yourself in any similar situation, you can receive support without being judged. You can find contact details of a support organisation here.

Forced Marriage

Forced marriage occurs when one or both people do not freely consent to the marriage. Victims are often subjected to pressure, abuse or coercion.

It is important to note that forced marriages are different to arranged marriages. Arranged marriages are a common practice all over the world.

In arranged marriages, both people agree to the marriage. In forced marriages, one or both people do not have a choice.

Both adults and children can be forced into marriage. In some cases, they are forced or tricked into leaving their homes and traveling to a different place to get married.

After entering a forced marriage, some individuals are often subjected to different forms of exploitation, for example sexual exploitation or domestic servitude. If you are experiencing this, you are not alone.

Were you not consulted or aware that you were getting married?

Has your family or extended family used emotional pressure and/ or physical violence to make you agree to a marriage?

Have you been forced to stay in confinement and have not been allowed to discuss your marriage with anyone?

If you have experienced any of the above, you may be in a forced marriage, or you may be being pressured to marry against your will. You have the right to feel safe and to ask for help.

You do not have to deal with this on your own. There are people who won’t judge you and who will support you. 

Report Exploitation Here

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Is there anything you would like to report? Have you seen or heard something suspicious? Download the STOP APP to report incidents of exploitation you have experienced or witnessed.

The STOP APP enables anyone who has experienced, seen or heard about human trafficking or exploitation to securely and anonymously report this through the STOP APP.

There will be no record of the report submitted on your phone. Please make sure you are in safe place away from the suspected incident when making the report.

STOP THE TRAFFIK is a human trafficking prevention organisation. The STOP APP collects individuals’ stories of global human trafficking to disrupt and prevent this crime. We are not a rescue organisation and this app is not monitored 24/7. If anyone is in immediate danger or a crime has been committed, please contact trusted authorities.

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