‘Sex-for-rent’ deals advertised online ‘exploiting’ homeless youths
Young, vulnerable people are at risk of being sexually abused by people posting online ads offering accommodation in exchange for other “services,” an investigation has found.
The deals, which are entirely legal and appear on classified ad sites such as Craigslist, have been described by charities as “exploitative.”
One student, who claims a “sex-for-rent” deal was her only option, said she became “physically unwell” after repeated encounters.
“He took me into his living room, got me drinks, and then after that it was just straight upstairs and go for it,” she told the BBC.
“He would do what he wanted to do, forcefully, and I just sort of went along with it – after the third time, I started feeling physically unwell.”
Some of the ads seen by BBC South East were explicit in their intent, with one featuring a double room in Rochester in exchange for “services.”
Another offered accommodation, but asked the tenant to pretend to be the poster’s girlfriend in return.
One London landlord asked for a “naughty girl” to be his tenant.
The advertisers were very clear on how things would pan out.
One said the prospective tenant should “pop into my room” a few times a week, while all other arrangements would be like those between flatmates, but rent and bills would be free.
“I was thinking once a week, something like that, I’m happy as long as there’s sex involved,” said another.
Anti-slavery charity Unseen’s Andrew Wallis told the BBC he thought the deals are on the verge of being illegal.
“I think these adverts go as close to the edge of the law that they possibly can without breaking the law.
“They would argue that they have chosen voluntarily to enter that situation.”
Although some may argue that people have a choice whether to go for a deal or not, it is more complex than that when it comes to “vulnerable” people being exploited.
“The trouble is when you have a vulnerable person who then becomes exploited, the concept of choice soon disappears.”
Mel Potter, from women’s charity Brighton Oasis Project, said the deals could turn out to be a “trap” which puts people at “risk of violence and abuse.”
One such landlord claimed it is a “win-win” deal, as both parties end up with some benefit.
“You can argue that high rent charged by landlords is taking advantage too.
“There’s no compulsion for them to do this. Everyone goes into it with their eyes wide open.
“I am the last type of person who’d like to take advantage.
“Both sides have something the other person wants. I see it as a win-win situation.”
Paul Noblet, of homeless charity Centrepoint, called on websites posting such ads to come up with a code by which they can monitor posts and retract those seeming to offer abusive deals.
“If they don’t stand up to this and then accept their responsibility, I will be pushing for legislation to do it for them,” he told the BBC.
Craigslist, which featured more than 100 adverts of the kind on its page in one day, has not commented.