Staying Safe from Exploitation

Information for Refugees and Asylum Seekers about how to stay safe and access support

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

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

Are you experiencing any of the following?

  • Is someone pressuring you into providing sexual services?
  • Is someone making you feel frightened of the consequences if you refuse?
  • Are you experiencing physical, emotional and/or sexual abuse?
  • 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?
  • Are you being forced to provide sexual services because someone says you owe them money?

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 still 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:

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.

Where Can Sexual Exploitation Happen?

Sexual exploitation can happen in different places:

For more information about online sexual exploitation, click here

Who Can Be a Perpetrator of Sexual Exploitation?

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 threats and intimidation.

Other control methods include:

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. Don’t agree unless you know all the details. 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. 

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

Safety Advice

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

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

Stories of Survivors

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

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

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 me get out. She brought me to Türkiye where she promised me that I would have a better, safer life and find work. I trusted her and I thought she was saving me. When we arrived in Türkiye, 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 to Türkiye 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 for me to travel to Türkiye.

I had to flee my country because of war. I came to Türkiye to find safety. I was alone. I was working many hours and my salary was being withheld. I did not have much, and I was dreaming of a better life.  I met a boy who was in the same situation as me. We became friends. He introduced me to people and said they would help us get out of poverty. These people made me do things for money. I was exploited. I knew what they were doing to me was not right. But I was ashamed. I did not know that this could happen to me. I was too embarrassed to seek help.

I came to Türkiye to work and 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 brought me to Greece. There I found myself in the same situation.

I am a trans woman. I escaped my country because I was in danger. I came to Türkiye 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 that if I resisted, they would take me to the police and send me 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.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, please contact SGDD-ASAM for support. You can find the contact details

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.

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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