Published: 1 November 2022 | Updated: 20 February 2023

Healthy relationships

It is important to know what a healthy relationship is and what might not be and protect yourself and your friends.

If someone gives you something in return for sex, sexual activities or sexual photos that’s an unhealthy relationship.

They could:

  • offer you presents or money, food, alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes
  • give you affection and making you feel special
  • involve you in an activity that is exciting or fun

This applies to people the same age as you or older people.

It sounds easy to spot but relationships can change over time and become unhealthy with people trying to take advantage of you.

Someone might gain your trust by building an emotional bond with you and gradually begin to exploit you, this is known as grooming.

You might get to know the person face to face or online and trust can build very quickly, or it can happen slowly over many months.

It can be really hard to know if you are being taken advantage of and often young people being groomed think they are in a good relationship.

More information can be found on the NSPCC Grooming page.

Child exploitation

Child sexual exploitation (CSE) occurs when young people are taken advantage of by being forced or tricked into taking part in sexual activity.

CSE is a form of abuse, the person or people who abuse young people may pretend to be your boyfriend or girlfriend, they may buy you gifts, tell you they love you and make you feel special.

This behaviour is also known as grooming. It can be difficult to see as you may feel you are in a good relationship until they start to ask for something in return for the gifts and the attention they have given you.

They may ask you to:

  • have sex with them
  • send sexual pictures of yourself to them
  • have sex with other people

Find out more about warning signs of CSE.


Everyone experiences attraction differently. As you grow up and develop sexual feeling, you may find you are attracted to people of the opposite sex, people of the same sex as you or to both sexes and it may take a while for you to work out exactly what your feelings are.

Being lesbian, gay or bisexual is not a choice, it is the way someone feels inside and is natural to that person.

Sexual and gender identity

There are lots of different types of sexual orientation and there is no such thing as a normal sexuality.

Transgender describes people who feel that the sex they were assigned at birth does not match how they feel inside. For example, someone who was born as a girl but has always felt like a boy.

Experimenting and exploring

Some people know straightaway who they fancy, while others may experiment while they are exploring their sexuality. There is no need to feel pressured into putting a label on how you feel.

For some young people, coming to terms with the fact that they might be attracted to someone of the same sex can be very difficult. Hurtful and negative comments can make it even harder.

Remember, there are plenty of services and online resources to help young people who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual or who are exploring their sexuality.

Forced marriage

A forced marriage is where one or both people do not consent (or in cases of people with learning or physical disabilities, cannot consent) to the marriage and pressure or abuse is used to force them to marry.

The pressure put on people to marry against their will can be:

  • physical including threats, actual physical violence and sexual violence
  • emotional and psychological for example, when someone is made to feel like they’re bringing shame on their family
  • financial abuse including taking away their wages or not giving them any money

Who to contact if you are at risk

If you, or anyone you know, think they are at risk of being forced into a marriage, it is important that you tell a trusted adult like a school nurse or a teacher as soon as possible.

There are ways that you can be protected so that you do not have to go through with the marriage.