Signs and Symptoms of Child Sexual Exploitation

Grooming and sexual exploitation can be very difficult to identify. Warning signs can easily be mistaken for 'normal' teenage behaviour and/or development.


Parents, carers, school teachers and practitioners are advised to be alert to the following signs and symptoms.


  • Inappropriate sexual or sexualised behaviour
  • Repeat sexually transmitted infections; in girls repeat pregnancy, abortion or miscarriage
  • Having unaffordable new things (e.g. clothes, mobile phones) or expensive habits (e.g. alcohol, drugs)
  • Going to hotels or other unsual locations to meet friends
  • Getting in/out of different cars driven by unknown adults
  • Going missing from home or care
  • Having older boyfriends or girlfriends
  • Associating with other young people involved in sexual exploitation
  • Truancy, exclusion, disengagement with school, opting out of education altogether
  • Unexplained changes in behaviour or personality (chaotic, aggressive, sexual)
  • Drug or alcohol misuse
  • Getting involved in crime
  • Injuries from physical assault, physical restraint, sexual assault


(Barnardo's 2011, CEOP 2011, Berelowitz et al 2012)