Spotting the signs of CSE

Child sexual exploitation happens when a child has been persuaded that sexual activity is a ‘normal’ part of adult life.

Adolescence is a time of experimentation and can be a particularly challenging period for parents and their children. Most parents understand the value of young people learning about themselves through new experiences, but also want to protect their child from harm.

There could be cause for concern if your child is exhibiting three or more of the following warning signs:

  • He or she becomes especially secretive and stops engaging with their usual friends. They may be particularly prone to sharp mood swings; many parents come to Pace reporting that their child seems to have acquired an entirely different personality. Whilst mood swings are common to all adolescents, it is the severity of behavior change that is most indicative.
  • They may be associating with, or develop a sexual relationship with older men and/or women (although bear in mind that the perpetrators could approach the child through a peer from school who is already being exploited, or through the youngest member of the grooming network).
  • They may go missing from home – and be defensive about their location and activities, often returning home late or staying out all night (again, perpetrators know that parents will immediately suspect something is wrong if their child stays out all night, so they may initially drop the child off at the home address and before their curfew. They may even pick them up outside the school gates).
  • They may receive odd calls and messages on their mobiles or social media pages from unknown, possibly much older associates from outside their normal social network
  • They may be in possession of new, expensive items which they couldn’t normally afford, such as mobile phones, iPods or jewellery

Your child may also:

  • Exhibit a sudden change in dressing patterns or musical taste
  • Look tired and/or unwell, and sleep at unusual hours
  • Have marks or scars on their body which they try to conceal
  • Adopt new ‘street language’ or respond to a new street name

CSE perpetrators are both skilled and strategic; they aim to drive a wedge between you and your child, closing down the normal channels of communication and emotional bond between you.

If you have concerns

If you are worried about a child exhibiting any of these signs, talk through your concerns with our trained parent support workers or visit our advice centre for information on how to collect and log information that could help to create a picture of what is happening.