CSE Warning 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.

  • 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  • Being secretive or withdrawn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)

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

  • Having money, mobile phones, credit for mobile phones, sim cards, cloths, 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 

  • Frequent use of public transport 

  • Being taken abroad by family members (forced marriage)

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

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

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

  • Unusual association with taxi drivers/firms

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

  • Being a victim of honour based violence

  • Regularly coming home late or going missing overnight or longer

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

  • Becoming disruptive at home or school or using offensive language 

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

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

  • Experimenting with drugs and/or alcohol 

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

  • Volatile/criminal behaviour 

  • Indicators of CSE alongside serious self harming behaviour 

  • Sexually transmitted infections/ pregnancy

  • Having increased health/sexual health related problems

  • 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

  • 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 

 

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