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.

Here are some of the signs, that together could indicate your child might be at risk of being sexually exploited.

  • Being especially secretive and not engaging with their usual friends. They may be particularly prone to sharp mood swings; many parents come to Pace reporting that their child has a different personality.
  • Associating with, or developing a sexual relationship with older men and/or women
  • Missing from home and defensive about their location and activities, often returning home late or staying out all night (offenders know that parents will 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).
  • Odd calls and messages on their mobiles or social media pages from unknown, possibly older associates from outside their friendship circle
  • New belongings which they couldn’t normally afford, such as mobile phones, trainers, clothes or jewellery

Your child may also:

  • Start dressing differently
  • 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 nickname

Offenders of child sexual exploitation 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.