Spot the Warning Signs

Get ahead by knowing 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 or criminal exploitation but there are some signs that may signify that children or young people are being groomed and exploited.

Change in physical appearance- new clothes, more/less make up, poor self image, weight gain/loss

Expressions of despair (self-harm, overdose, eating disorder, challenging behaviour, aggression, appearing drunk or under the influence of drugs/alcohol, suicidal tendencies, looking tired or ill, sleeping during the day.) 

Indicators of CSE in conjunction with chronic alcohol and drug use

Becoming involved in criminality/repeat offending

Increased use of online gaming including Xbox 

‘Sexting’ (the act of sending sexually explicit messages or photographs, primarily between mobile phones) 

Getting into cars with unknown adults or associating with known CSE adults

Reports of being involved in CSE through being seen in hotspots (i.e. in certain flats, recruiting grounds, cars or houses and maybe in company of known CSE adults) 

Being secretive or withdrawn

Associating with other sexually exploited children

Unsuitable or inappropriate accommodation (including street homelessness, staying with adults known to be involved in CSE and living in a place where needs are not met)

Being involved in witchcraft  

Living independently and failing to respond to attempts by workers to keep in touch.

Having money, mobile phones, credit for mobile phones, sim cards, clothes, jewellery or other items without plausible explanation and not given by parents/carers 

Having possession of hotel keys/key cards or keys to unknown premises

Knowledge of towns and cities they have no previous connection with 

Disappearing from the ‘system’ with no contact or support 

Having increased health/sexual health related problems

Sexually transmitted infections/ pregnancy

Indicators of CSE alongside serious self harming behaviour 

Volatile/criminal behaviour 

Exclusion and/or unexplained absences from school or not engaged in education or training. Non school attendance or excluded due to behaviour

Experimenting with drugs and/or alcohol 

Child under 16 meeting different adults and exchanging or selling sexual activity

Child under 13 engaging in penetrative sex with another over 15 years 

Becoming disruptive at home or school or using offensive language 

Older ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ or relationship with a controlling adult

Regularly coming home late or going missing overnight or longer

Being a victim of honour based violence

Isolated from peers and social networks; not mixing with their usual friends

Unusual association with taxi drivers/firms

Having multiple mobile phones, sim cards or use of a mobile phone that causes concern; multiple callers, more texts than usual  

Receiving rewards of money or goods for recruiting peers into CSE or just introducing peers to known adults 

Being taken to clubs and hotels by adults and engaging in sexual activity

Being taken abroad by family members (forced marriage)

Frequent use of public transport 

Having marks or scars on their body which they try to conceal by refusing to undress or uncover parts of their body 

Multiple miscarriages or terminations 

Being defensive about where they have been and what they have been doing

Use of the internet that causes concern including possible use of web cam

Sexualised risk taking including on Internet and mobile phone

Association with gangs

Removed from known ‘red light’ district by professionals due to suspected CSE 

Being hostile or physically aggressive in their relationship with parents/carers or other family members 

Associating/developing a sexual relationship with older men or women

Physical or emotional abuse by that ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ or controlling adult  

Being taken to brothels/massage parlours

Returning home after long intervals but appearing well cared for

Lack of positive relationship with a protective, nurturing adult 

Breakdown of residential placements due to behaviour 

Overtly sexualised dress

Disclosure of physical/ sexual assault and then refusing to make or withdrawing a complaint

Receiving rewards of money or goods for recruiting peers into CSE or just introducing peers to known adults

Abduction and forced imprisonment

Being bought/sold for sexual acts