Cumbria Police highlight exploitation of vulnerable individuals forced into sex work

Cumbria police are working with partners to highlight ongoing work regarding the safeguarding of victims forced into sex work and the pursuit of offenders exploiting them. The work, which is ongoing, is aimed at raising awareness of this area of crime and to encourage the reporting of information.

Some sex workers will operate independently and of their own fruition. However, not every sex worker does so because the want to.

The exploitation of sex workers is a form of Modern Slavery, Human Trafficking and Organised Immigration Crime. It can be hard to identify as it is often a hidden crime, operating in the night-time economy or inside a property.

There is no target demographic for victims, they can be any age, gender and of any sexual orientation, this includes children and people who have been trafficked by gangs. Often made to work long hours for little or no pay, victims may have been groomed or face regular abuse including, threats, violence, sexual violence, coercion, and financial control.

Organised Crime Groups can often facilitate movement of individuals from abroad into the UK and then move people around the country to engage in sex work. These crime networks will exploit the most vulnerable to make a profit for themselves, giving no regard to how others may be affected.

Detective Inspector David Howard said:

“Whilst this type of crime is not prolific in Cumbria, it does unfortunately happen.

“By raising awareness of this crime, we hope it will give people the confidence to raise any concerns to us, no matter how small they may seem. That small piece of information might be the last part we need to build a bigger picture on an offender or to help safeguard a victim.

“All reports will be taken seriously, and any crimes investigated by specialist officers.

“Victims will be offer safeguarding and offered access to a wealth of support services to help keep them safe.

Potential signs of exploitation of a sex worker include:

  • Constant stream of different visitors at an address day and night
  • The suspected sex worker looks under 18
  • Speaking little or no English, has a learning disability or another characteristic which would impair their ability to understand and agree the work they are doing
  • Appears controlled by one or more person
  • Does not appear to have the freedom to make decisions or leave – locks on internal doors, dirty/cramped living space, escorted in an out of a property
  • Bookings and payments are not directly through the sex worker
  • Signs of injuries, maltreatment, exhaustion or malnourishment
  • Under the influence of drugs or alcohol
  • Appears afraid, sad, or unwilling

If you have concerns or information relating to the exploitation of sex workers, please report them:

  • To report information completely anonymously contract independent charity, CrimeStoppers on 0800 555 111.

Independent Support Services

Beyond Support is a free and confidential support service for women across the UK who have previously or are still selling sex. They offer a safe and confidential space to process your thoughts and think about next steps via regular calls with specialists and non-judgmental case workers.

Call the free number to leave a confidential message at 0800 1337 870.

Or email (These are only viewed by the support team).

Victim Support provide free, confidential information, advice and support. Call them 24/7 on 0300 303 0157 or LiveChat through

Safety Net (North and West Cumbria) helping clients who have experienced rape, exploitation, sexual and domestic abuse. 01228 515859 

Birchall Trust (South Cumbria) helping clients who have experienced rape, sexual exploitation and sexual abuse 01229820828 

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