Identifying those at risk

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Signs that a child may be at risk of sexual exploitation

There are a number of signs that should alert you to the risk of sexual exploitation.
If you can recognise and act on these signs, you will help us to keep your child safe and protected.
The signs include:

  • a change in behaviour or mood
  • going missing or regularly coming home late
  • having a much older boyfriend/girlfriend
  • bringing home new things, without having the money to pay for them
  • changing their usual group of friends for another (possibly older) group
  • meeting unknown adults, or chatting to unknown adults, either on their phone or through social networking sites.
  • someone asks you to do things that makes you feel uncomfortable.

For Professionals

Warning signs and vulnerabilities checklist
The following are typical vulnerabilities in children prior to abuse.
• Living in a chaotic or dysfunctional household (including parental substance use, domestic violence, parental mental health issues, parental criminality)
• History of abuse (including familial child sexual abuse, risk of forced marriage, risk of honour-based violence, physical and emotional abuse and neglect)
• Recent bereavement or loss.
• Gang-association either through relatives, peers or intimate relationships (in cases of gang associated CSE only).
• Attending school with others who are already sexually exploited.
• Learning disabilities.
• Unsure about their sexual orientation/ unable to disclose orientation to families.
• Friends with young people who are sexually exploited.
• Homeless.
• Lacking friends from the same age group.
• Living in a gang neighbourhood.
• Living in residential care.
• Living in hostel, bed and breakfast accommodation or a foyer.
• Low self-esteem or self-confidence.
• Young carer.
The following signs and behaviour are generally seen in children who are already being sexually exploited.
• Missing from home or care. • Physical injuries.
• Drug or alcohol misuse.
• Involvement in offending.
• Repeat sexually-transmitted infections, pregnancy and terminations.
• Absent from school.
• Change in physical appearance.
• Evidence of sexual bullying and/or vulnerability through the internet and/or social networking sites.
• Estranged from their family.
• Receipt of gifts from unknown sources.
• Recruiting others into exploitative situations. • Poor mental health.
• Self-harm.
• Thoughts of or attempts at suicide.