Anyone from any background can be exploited.

There are many physical and psychological signs a child or young person might exhibit if they are being exploited. There is no single offence of exploitation and so signs can vary with each individual. Recognising changes in a person’s behaviour overall will help in identifying a child that is being exploited.

These lists are neither prescriptive nor exhaustive.

Common signs of exploitation:

  • having unexplained mobile phone credit or a new mobile phone
  • having unknown telephone contacts
  • possessing drugs or alcohol
  • staying out late
  • being disengaged from family members
  • exhibiting inappropriate sexual behaviour
  • being withdrawn
  • spending more time online
  • going missing from home
  • missing education
  • being disengaged
  • appearing anxious
  • self-harming
  • being blackmailed (also known as debt bondage)
  • being secretive.

Signs of gang exploitation may include:

  • fear of other neighbourhoods
  • offensive, antisocial behaviour
  • providing alibis for other gang members
  • having new friends of different ages
  • carrying a new mobile phone
  • carrying weapons
  • being involved in petty crime
  • a distinctive dress style
  • being approached or picked up by unknown vehicles.

Signs of child sexual exploitation may include:

  • unexplained gifts
  • significant older boyfriend/girlfriend
  • inappropriate sexual behaviour for their age
  • mood swings
  • sexually transmitted infections
  • pregnancy.

Signs of peer-on-peer exploitation may include:

  • defensive behaviour about peer group
  • increased time spent online
  • having unexplained items such as money and gifts
  • being bullied.