- Everyone has rights – so if you are doing something that affects other people’s rights, you may end up in trouble, even if someone is making you do it
- If someone is making you do things that are hurting you (rather than other people), your rights, and the law are there to protect you
- Whether you are doing something that’s breaking the law, or being hurt yourself, the best way to stop it is to tell someone
Although your rights protect you, they won’t stop you getting into trouble if you do something that is wrong. Your rights just make sure that you are treated properly while you are in trouble. If you break a rule or break the law, it doesn’t really matter that someone made you do it. Whoever deals with any punishment that comes out of what has happened might take into account that you were pressured, but – you still did it.
If someone is making you do things that are harmful to you – perhaps forcing you to have sex, or to get married, your rights, and the laws in Wales, are there to protect you.
At schoolIf this is happening at school, you should tell a teacher you trust. If you can’t think of a teacher you want to talk to, a school counsellor might be able to help, or your parents or carer. Most schools will have rules about behaviour and will take action to stop this kind of bullying. If you end up breaking school rules, and even breaking the law, this can have a huge impact on you for the rest of your life. You could end up being excluded from school, or even in trouble with the police. Even if someone is bullying you into doing something, you will probably be the one to get into trouble, not the bully. Find out more about being in trouble at school here.
On the streetIf someone you hang out with outside school is making you do things you don’t want to do, you need to find someone you can trust to talk to and work out a strategy to make this stop. Even though it’s happening outside school, you might be able to talk to a teacher if there’s no one at home to talk to. If what you’re doing is breaking the law, may be stealing or damaging property or hurting someone, you could tell the police. You might also get into trouble if you have broken the law as well, but you will get credit for owning up and for saying sorry. Find out more about being in trouble with the police here.
In a gangIf you’re in a gang and you’ve been asked to get involved with things that you know are wrong, it can be difficult to leave. You may not want to tell anyone what’s happening, but if you don’t you will stay in the same position, and risk getting into trouble with the police. This can have a huge impact on your life.
If someone is pressurising you to have sex or forcing you to have sex, you haven’t consented, so it’s against the law. You might be worried that you will get into trouble if you tell someone – may be your mum or dad or a teacher. They may be upset but they will want to make sure you are safe, so if you can tell someone, you should do. You can also go to the police. If you’re worried about this, you can ask someone to help you.
It is never your fault that someone has had sex with you when you don’t want to or if you’ve been pressurised into it – whatever the other person says.
If someone has given you gifts, may be taken you out and looked after you, and then asks you to have sex with them, this is wrong. You might also have arrived in Wales from another country and the person who brought you here (or someone else) says you have to have sex before you can have your papers or passport back. This is exploitation and is against the law in Wales.
If you’re in this situation, you might feel that you have no way to get out of it. It’s often an older person who will behave like this. As a child, you can feel powerless to do anything and to get help.
You might be happy with the situation, but the law says that this kind of exploitation this is wrong, so the person who’s doing this could get into trouble with the police.
The law in Wales says that you can only get married if you are over 18 – but if your parents agree, you can get married when you are 16. In some cases, people think that this means they can agree to their child getting married, even if the child doesn’t agree to it.
In Wales, it’s against the law for anyone to be forced to get married. If you usually live in Wales (or England) and you are taken to another country to get married, the same applies. The people who have forced you to get married could end up in jail for 7 years.
If you – or someone else – is worried that you might be in a situation where you are going to be forced to marry someone, either here or abroad, you can apply to the court for a ‘forced marriage protection order’. A forced marriage protection order can include things that people can’t do, as well as things that people might have to do, to make sure you are protected.
If someone does something they aren’t supposed to do under the order, they can go to prison for up to 5 years.
The law protects you even if you have already been forced into a marriage. You can get a forced marriage protection order after the marriage has taken place. You will be able to apply to have the marriage can be ‘annulled’ – which means it will be as if the marriage never happened (which is different to divorce).
If someone you are very close to, or have been very close to in the past, including a partner, or someone in your family, is controlling you or forcing you to do things, threatening you and really having a big impact on your life, they could be breaking the law, especially if you are over 16.
If you’re under 16 and the person threatening you and controlling you is someone who’s supposed to be looking after you – like your mum or dad or a carer, then they may still be breaking the law.
We are very grateful to Irwin Mitchell Solicitors for generously giving their time and expertise to check the content of this section of the website. October 2018.