SPOT THE SIGNS

Children are groomed and exploited in different ways.

It may be difficult for parents, carers and frontline professionals to differentiate between ordinary teenage behaviour and the risk of or involvement in sexual exploitation but there are some signs that may signify that children or young people are being groomed for sexual exploitation or actually being sexually exploited.

Missing from school or home

Unexplained gifts

Changes in behaviour and/or appearance

Drugs or alcohol

Signs of physical harm

Breakdown of relationships

A MORE COMPREHENSIVE LIST OF THE WARNING SIGNS OF CHILD SEXUAL EXPOLITATION ARE AS FOLLOWS.
 

Emotional and behavioural development

Signs include:

  • Changes in temperament or suffering from depression, mood swings or changes in emotional wellbeing
  • Secretive behaviour
  • Peers and friends – association with other young people involved in exploitation and having older boyfriends/girlfriends
  • Getting involved in petty crime such as shoplifting or stealing.

Education

Signs include:

  • Being absent and truanting or showing signs of disengagement, eg, lack of interest and frequent poor behaviour
  • Considerable change in performance.

Identity

Signs include:

  • Appearing with unexplained gifts or new possessions
  • Change in appearance, eg, different clothes.

Family and social relationships

Signs include:

  • Children or young people who become estranged from their family
  • Sudden hostility towards family members
  • Becoming physically aggressive towards family and friends
  • Going missing for periods of time or regularly returning home late
  • Involvement in exploitative relationships or association with risky adults
  • Young people being found in towns or districts where they have no known connection
  • Young people who have more than one boyfriend or who share their boyfriend
  • Children or young people seen entering or leaving vehicles driven by unknown adults
  • Becoming detached from age-related activities and social groups
  • Being sexually active
  • Receiving phone calls and/or text messages from unknown adults
  • Children or young people who appear to be recruiting others into exploitative situations.

Health

Signs include:

  • Evidence of drug, alcohol and/or substance use – abusers may use drugs and alcohol to help control children and young people
  • Unexplained physical injuries or suffering from physical injuries (eg, bruising suggestive of either physical or sexual assault)
  • Children or young people who are self-harming and demonstrating suicidal thoughts and tendencies
  • Recurring sexually transmitted infections
  • Pregnancy or seeking an abortion
  • Children or young people displaying inappropriate sexualised behaviours, such as being overfamiliar with strangers or sending sexualised images via the internet or mobile phones
  • Changes in physical appearance (eg, losing weight, being malnourished).

This is not an exhaustive list and indicators can change over time. For a fuller list see the NSPCC website or see the CSE webpage for parents and carers.

IF YOU ARE WORRIED THAT A CHILD IS OR MAY BE AT RISK OF SEXUAL EXPLOITATION REPORT IT NOW.