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Relationships and safer sex

Sex and relationships can be complicated

Pulse offers a range of sexual health advice and other services to support young people.

Lift holds regular Pulse clinics, work closely with Brook and also offers free condoms to young people registered with the Come Correct Scheme.

There are sexual health and contraceptive organisations that can help:

Also check out related services on this page.

In a relationship

If you are:

  • in a relationship that makes you unhappy, or you are affected badly by family relationships and arguments, try to get help to sort it out.
  • being treated badly, confused about your sexuality, worried about coming out, it can be very helpful to talk to people who understand what you are going through.

If someone you were close to has died, the hopeagain website can help, T 0808 808 1677.

In law, the ‘age of consent’ for sexual activity is 16. This applies to straight and gay sex. This means that, if someone has sex with someone who is under 16 years old, they can be charged with rape or sexual assault.

Anyone in a ‘position of trust’, such as a teacher, will be breaking the law if he or she has sex with someone under the age of 18. Look at The Mix for more information on what the age of consent means for you.

Forcing or persuading someone to have sex, if they don’t want to, even if you are both in a relationship together, is rape – whatever their age.

Rape attacks and sexual assaults should be reported to the police. They have specially trained officers, called Sapphire officers, who work sensitively with anyone attacked.

If you are worried that your own behaviour is abusive, you can get help from the services below too.

Below you will find information and services to contact and get confidential help.

If you feel happier with getting support over the internet or telephone, services will provide this, for example call Childline on 0800 1111. If you are in immediate danger of an attack, such as a physical assault or rape, call the police on 999.

Safer sex and contraception

If you say no to sex you won’t need contraception, but once you have decided that you are ready for a sexual relationship, it is a good idea to think about contraception.

If you don’t take steps to have a safe sex life, you run the risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and an unplanned, unwanted pregnancy.

If you do use contraception, don’t forget that drinking too much alcohol can result in forgetting to use it.

There are 15 different methods of contraception. You can get help to decide which would be the best method for you. See also NHS UK.

Contraception services are free and confidential to all, including those under 16 years old. You can get them from:

  • GPs
  • sexual health clinics
  • young people’s centres like Pulse.

Emergency contraception such as ‘the morning after pill’ after unprotected sex is free from contraception services. It can also be bought at most chemists, if you are over 16.

You can buy condoms in chemists, supermarkets and some clubs and pubs.

There are local services ready to help you. They give young people confidential advice and support.

Pulse offers confidential advice on all sexual issues including contraception. Pulse also offers pregnancy testing. You can use this service if you are under 25.

Support and information is also available at Lift

The Brandon Centre provides free and confidential contraception and sexual health services to young people aged 12 to 24. 

Also check out the related information and services on this page.

Worried you may have caught a sexually transmitted infection?

If you are sexually active, you are at risk of getting a sexually transmitted infection (STI), especially if you haven’t used a condom. You can get advice and testing at these centres.


  • Cases of STIs, especially chlamydia, are rising in young people
  • STI symptoms are often very uncomfortable. Women don’t always have symptoms but still need treatment, or they will risk their own health and will pass on the infection
  • The sooner you are treated, the easier it will be to get back to normal
  • Some STIs lead to infertility – another reason to get treated quickly
  • Most STIs are easily treated (exceptions are HIV and hepatitis)
  • Chlamydia is an STI that is on the increase in both sexes, particularly in the 16 to 24 age group. It doesn’t always have symptoms but left untreated, it can lead to long term health problems and infertility. Getting checked for chlamydia is simple – just provide a urine sample.

These organisations can give you confidential practical advice on how to prevent STIs, who will run tests like the simple one for chlamydia, and who can treat you:

  • Pulse - offers a range of sexual health advice
  • Lift

Checkurself has information about chlamydia testing and treatment. If you live in London and are between 16 and 24 years old, you can get tested for chlamydia by ordering a test kit. If you need treatment chlamydia is easy to treat with antibiotics, and treatment is FREE!

Think or know you are pregnant?

Firstly, you need to get yourself checked out to see if you really are pregnant.

If your pregnancy is unplanned, deciding what to do could be hard. Find out about all the choices open to you as soon as possible. You can get advice and a pregnancy test at Pulse and Lift.

Get as much advice as you can from experts, as well as talking to your family.

These agencies can help, with friendly, confidential advice from advice workers and medical staff who will not judge you:

  • Pulse - offers a range of sexual health advice
  • Lift

Also check out the related information and services on this page.

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