Warning Signs of Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE)
There are a number of signs to look out for, either in what you are doing yourself or some of the things you see from a friend.
It’s important to remember that individually these might not necessarily be warning signs of CSE, however when you start to see a number of them at the same time, there is a real possibility that you or a friend are being sexually exploited.
Remember, sharing your concern with a trusted adult can help protect you or a friend.
This can be a normal and is not always a problem, however if the person seems to be a lot older then this could be a warning sign of CSE.
Perpetrators can be of any age though, so may be someone who is the same age as their victim.
Lying about where you’re going, who you’re with or who you are texting
Spending a lot more time than usual on the phone, or receiving texts or phone calls from different people.
Speaking to people you don’t know via social media or chatrooms.
Arranging to meet up with someone that you have met online can be dangerous, especially if you don’t tell anyone who you are meeting and where.
REMEMBER, people online can pretend to be anyone they want to be.
A change in how you dress or how you look. This can include the clothes you wear or the amount of make-up you use.
Occasionally staying out after curfew can happen. However, if it continues and becomes later and later that you get home or even sees you stay out all night, this can be a warning sign of CSE.
Missing school is a warning sign, as perpetrators of CSE develop stronger relationships, everyday activities like school start to be neglected or pressure can be put on you to stop you going to school.
Perpetrators use gifts to make you feel special, but then can use them against you by saying that you owe them.
Gifts can include money, drugs, alcohol, clothes, phones and other expensive items.
A change in friendship can happen as you get older. It’s a warning sign of CSE if there is a sudden change or you start to distance yourself away from your usual friendship group.
Perpetrators can be controlling over who you talk to and who you are friends with. They are clever with how they do this and you may not realise what is happening until it’s too late.
Drugs and alcohol can be given as gifts by perpetrators. It is sometimes used as a way of taking advantage of a child or young person as they may not be aware of what they are doing whilst under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
(REMEMBER, you may not have capacity to consent to sexual activity whilst under the influence of alcohol or drugs).
Some young people who have been exploited may find that they have to visit sexual health clinics on a regular basis for testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or for the morning after pill.
Some young people really struggle with how to cope with their emotions or how they are feeling, especially if they have been exploited.
Self-harm, low mood and overdoses can be a warning sign that a child or young person has been exploited.
While this list shows some of the common warning signs of CSE, there are a number of other signs too.
It’s important to remember that, if you have any concerns about yourself or a friend, you tell a trusted adult, like a parent, school nurse or teacher. If you can’t do this face to face, there are services you can contact like ChatHealth or Childline. In an emergency, call 999.
how to get help
If you have any more questions on this area or would like to speak to somebody about this topic, have a look at the links or search for your local services in the blue box below. Alternatively you can always contact your school nurse.
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Find help in your local area
Find out what services are available to you in your area. Remember your school nurse is always there to give you confidential help and support.