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Changing Lives and Leading Women's Organisations Call for Decisive Action on Adult Sexual Exploitation

June 2024

3 Min Read

Changing Lives publish open letter backed by ten leading organisations in tackling Sexual Exploitation and VAWG to call for action for victim-survivors of Adult Sexual Exploitation.

Dear Future Leader,

We are writing to you as a collection of organisations to ask you to take action to better support adult victims of sexual exploitation in the UK.

The sexual exploitation of adults is hidden in the cracks of society across this country, whereby the most vulnerable people are systemically targeted for abuse and trapped with no way to escape. Countless people are falling through the gaps and not receiving necessary support because their experiences are not being recognised.

Recent government policy has focused primarily on child sexual exploitation, at the expense of adults who are also subject to this horrific form of abuse. Many adults whose abuse began in childhood find that support drops off when they turn 18, despite nothing about the exploitation changing. Furthermore, policy that disproportionately focuses on child victims neglects the 73% of adult victims whose abuse began in adulthood.

As we approach the upcoming General Election, we are calling for the incoming government to commit to the following pillars for change to adequately support victims of adult sexual exploitation:

Perception: Victim/survivors of adult sexual exploitation (ASE) are falling

through the gaps of support systems across the UK because of a widespread lack of understanding. We call for the incoming government to create a statutory definition of ASE and accompanying guidance to improveunderstanding and ultimately improve the support offered to victim/survivors.

ASE is not clearly defined in any government guidance, meaning that organisations are making up their own, or in some cases may not even acknowledge that sexual exploitation affects adults as well as children. Inconsistent definitions means that people are getting inconsistent support. The introduction of a comprehensive definition and guidance would allow existing legislation, including the Sexual Offences Act 2003, the Care Act 2014 and the Modern Slavery Act 2015 to be used more effectively in ASE cases.

Prevalence: The prevalence of Adult Sexual Exploitation is currently unknown. Without an understanding of the extent of this problem, it will not receive adequate funding or service provision. We are calling on the incoming government to commission research to estimate the prevalence of ASE across the UK and develop plans for ongoing data collection.

There is no comprehensive system currently in place to measure the prevalence of ASE in the UK. Without an understanding of the prevalence, victim/survivors will not receive the support they deserve because it will remain under-funded and adequate service provisions will not be put in place. In order to establish an accurate understanding of the prevalence of Adult Sexual Exploitation, government-commissioned data collection on a national scale is necessary.

Protection: Systems of support often drop off when an individual turns 18. Strict eligibility criteria for safeguarding adults outlined in the Care Act 2014 has meant that adult victims of sexual exploitation are not qualifying forservices. We ask that the incoming government commit to review the Care Act to better protect vulnerable adults.

We recognise that eligibility criteria that recognises an adult’s capacity to consent in comparison to that of a child is necessary. However, current legislation does not adequatelyrecognise the role of coercion, grooming, mental capacity, substance dependency/misuse, and trauma in making informed consent. Therefore, it also does not recognise the unique vulnerabilities that many victims of ASE face. Therefore, we call for the incoming government to commit to review the Care Act 2014 to better protect vulnerable adults.

The 11 organisations who are signatories to this letter urge you to pledge your support to adult victims of sexual exploitation.

We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you or a member of your team to discuss these asks further.


Stephen Bell OBE CEO of Changing Lives


  • Agenda Alliance - Indy Cross, Chief Executive
  • The Angelou Centre - Ashma Begum, VAWG Services Manager
  • Ashiana - Daljit Kaur, Chief Officer
  • A Way Out - Kay Nicolson, CEO
  • Basis Yorkshire - Moya Woolven, CEO
  • Cranstoun - Luke O’Neil and Maria Cripps, Director of New Business and Services & Assistant Director of Domestic Abuse Services
  • GROW - Joanna Jones, CEO
  • NWG Network - Sheila Taylor MBE, Chief Executive
  • Together Women - Rokaiya Khan, CEO
  • WomenCentre - Angela Everson, Chief Executive