How sexual exploitation can affect the health of children and young people

If you know someone who’s been affected by sexual exploitation, or if you’ve read about it in the news or seen reports on TV, you’ll know that it can have a serious effect on the lives of both victims and their families.

Though most of us know that child sexual exploitation is bad, few people understand the lasting effect it can have on the health of those affected. In many cases, it’s these long term health issues that cause victims the biggest problems with both the mental and physical scars of exploitation taking many years to heal.


PTSD, or post-traumatic stress disorder, is a common after effect of sexual exploitation. It can cause victims to become anxious, stressed, hyper-vigilant and can even cause sufferers to relive the traumatic event over and over again inside their mind.

People suffering from PTSD will generally need long term, professional help to cope with the symptoms and overcome the disorder. Without treatment, symptoms can continue for years or even decades, making daily life very difficult and making it hard for sufferers to form long term relationships.

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In many cases, the victims of child sexual exploitation will have their self-esteem completely destroyed by their abusers. They may also be unable to cope with their feelings of anger and be unable to talk easily about what they went through.

As a result, a high number of young people who have been sexually exploited begin to self-harm either as a cry for help, a way to deal with their feelings or a way to express anger at what’s happened to them.

Substance abuse

People who sexually exploit children often used drugs and alcohol as a way to get their victims to do what they want. In a lot of cases, children become addicted to drugs or alcohol and find it difficult to stop abusing substances even after the exploitation is over.

Substance abuse can have a serious effect on long term health and can be incredibly hard to stop once someone is addicted.

Sexual transmitted Infections

As many victims of sexual exploitation will be forced or coerced into having sex with lots of people, there’s a high chance that they will catch a sexually transmitted infections.

Though many STIs are easy to treat some, like HIV, are more serious and can have serious life-long consequences.

The best way to minimise the health effects of child sexual exploitation is to stop it as early as possible or, better still, prevent it from happening altogether.

However, if you have been exploited it’s not too late. There is lots of support available to help you through this time and just because you have been exploited doesn’t mean you will experience these effects. No two cases of sexual exploitation are exactly the same.

So if you or anyone you know is at risk from sexual exploitation, it’s incredibly important you get in touch with the Rose Project or tell someone you trust. By getting help as soon as possible, you can give yourself or your friends the best possible chance of having a healthy and happy life in the future. Get in touch on 0808 800 1037 or through our live chat.