How Children are Trafficked in Plain Sight Part 3
CSE can be difficult to spot, however, there are some signs and symptoms that we can be aware of in victims or potential victims. If we are vigilant to these signs, we may be able to help a child who is being targeted or exploited.
- Changes in appearance
- New or multiple phones, unexplained clothes, money, or other items
- Staying out late or away from home
- Going missing
- Anger or aggression
- Sudden changes in friendship groups
- Older “boyfriend” or “girlfriend”
- Lifts in cars with strangers
- Repeated or untreated sexual health issues
- Inappropriate sexual behaviour
- Secretive use of phone or internet
- Disengagement/exclusion from education
- Unexplained injuries
- Chaotic and aggressive behaviour
- Associating with other young people known to be at risk of exploitation
It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list; the main thing to look out for is any change in appearance or behaviour that cannot be explained by other circumstances. It’s also important to understand that a child can exhibit any of the listed behaviours and not be at risk of CSE. If you are worried about a child or young person you should not assume anything, but work to understand them and anything that is going on with them.
The Marshall Report was the first major inquiry into CSE in Northern Ireland, and made several recommendations as to what should be done to protect children from exploitation, including educating them about the risks and warning signs of exploitation. We are pleased to be contributing to this via our education and awareness raising workshops, and we welcomed the CIJNI’s review into the criminal justice system’s response to CSE. We were pleased to see their recommendations for further operational and strategic action into child protection, and we hope these recommendations will be followed up on. These recommendations are out of the public’s control, but we can all do more to keep children safe from exploitation. Here are some things you can do:
- Talk to your children about safe and healthy relationships
- Have open conversations about online use and activity
- Educate yourself about CSE and other forms of exploitation and trafficking
- Hold our leaders accountable
- Raise your voice
- Report concerns
As stated in the Definition and Guide for Practitioners, “Child sexual exploitation is never the victim’s fault, even if there is some form of exchange: all children and young people under the age of 18 have a right to be safe and should be protected from harm”
Children often do not understand what is happening to them – their abuse is normalised to the point that they come to expect it, or believe they deserve it. It’s our responsibility as adults to protect them, and be vigilant for signs of exploitation.
If you would like to learn more about what Invisible Traffick is doing to help children and young people, you can find it on our Journey page or Junior Education Programme page.