Warning signs

When a young person is being sexually exploited they may exhibit a range of types of behaviour or warning signs that might indicate that they’re a victim or at risk of child sexual exploitation.

If you know a young person who is showing some of these signs and you’re worried about them please report it now.

You can also see our ‘Spot the signs’ page for young people.

Appearance and Behaviour

  • Physical symptoms (bruising suggestive of either physical or sexual assault).
  • Evidence of drug, alcohol or substance misuse.
  • Volatile behaviour / mood swings / use of abusive language.
  • Truancy/disengagement with education or change in performance at school.
  • Low self-image, low self-esteem, self-harming behaviour, e.g. cutting, overdosing, eating disorder, promiscuity.
  • Physical aggression towards others.
  • Change in appearance / always tired.

Sexual

  • Sexually transmitted infections / pregnancy / seeking an abortion.
  • Sexually risky behaviour.
  • Sexual / unexplained relationships with older people.
  • History of abuse or neglect.
  • Domestic violence / parental difficulties.
  • Clothing – inappropriate for age, borrowing clothing from others.
  • Reports that the child has been seen in places known to be used for sexual exploitation.

Relationships

  • Entering or leaving vehicles driven by unknown adults.
  • Hostility in relationship with parents/carers and other family members.
  • Reports to suggest the likelihood of involvement in sexual exploitation (eg from friends or family).
  • Associating with other young people who are known to be sexually exploited.
  • Inappropriate use of Internet – & forming relationships, with adults.
  • Phone calls, text messages or letters from unknown adults.
  • Adults or older youths loitering outside the child’s usual place of residence.

Missing / Homelessness

  • Truancy.
  • Placement breakdown.
  • Persistently missing, staying out overnight or returning late.
  • Returning after having been missing, looking well cared for in spite of having no known home base.
  • Missing for long periods, with no known home base.
  • Going missing and being found in areas where the child or young person has no known links.

Financial

  • Petty crime e.g. shoplifting, stealing.
  • Having keys to other premises.
  • Expensive clothes, mobile phones or other possessions without explanation.
  • Accounts of social activities requiring money.
  • Possession of large amounts of money with no plausible explanation.