Tips for Spotting Child Sex Trafficking
The fight against child sex trafficking requires vigilance from all of us. It’s been called the dark trade because much of it happens out of sight. However, there are signs that can help us identify when a child is in danger, and they are often conspicuous.
If you notice any number of the red flags below, we encourage you to contact the Abuse Hotline of the Florida Department of Children and Families by calling 1.800.96ABUSE or reporting online, ReportAbuse@dcf.state.fl.us.
- Exhibits poor hygiene, weight changes, malnourishment or fatigue.
- Use of lingo or slang from “the life” among peers, or referring to a boyfriend as “Daddy.”
- Wearing new clothes of any style, or getting hair or nails done with no financial means to this independently, is a more general indicator of potential sexual exploitation.
- Truancy or tardiness from school may be a sign that sexual exploitation is occurring during school hours, or during hours when the young person should otherwise be sleeping.
- Having a tattoo that he or she is reluctant to explain may be the result of tattooing or branding by a pimp. Pimps and other sexual exploiters often tattoo or brand children and youth, particularly girls. Youth are commonly branded with their exploiter’s name tattooed on the neck, chest, or arms.
- Physical and sexual violence are the everyday reality of many sexually exploited children and may leave visible signs of abuse, such as unexplained bruises, black eyes, cuts, or marks.
- Exhibits fear, anxiety, depression, submission, tension, nervousness, “hyper-vigilance” and/or paranoid behavior.
- Sexually exploited children and youth often express interest in, or are in relationships with, adults or older men.
- Evidence of controlling or dominating relationships, including repeated phone calls from a “boyfriend” and/or excessive concern about displeasing partner.
- Unexplained shopping trips or possession of expensive clothing, jewelry, or a cell phone could indicate the manipulation of an exploiter.
- Not in control of their own money.
- Secrecy about whereabouts.
- Unaccounted for time, vagueness concerning whereabouts, and/or defensiveness in response to questions or concerns.
- Keeping late-night or unusual hours.
- Most sexually exploited children have been trained to lie about their age. Sometimes a child’s appearance and/or actions can contradict the information they give. Be sensitive to clues in behavior or appearance that could indicate that a child is underage.
- Personal information – such as age, name, and/or date of birth – might change with each telling of his or her story, or the information given might contradict itself.
- Has no identification or is not in control of own ID documents.
- Has an explicitly sexual online profile via internet community sites, such as Instagram, Kik, Snapchat, TikTok, WhatsApp, Tumblr, Facebook, HouseParty, and Twitter.
- Excessive frequenting of internet chat rooms or classified sites.
- Depicts elements of sexual exploitation or the commercial sex industry in drawing, poetry, or other modes of creative expression. Prints lyrics to sexually explicit music or songs that allude to the sex industry.
- Doctors and nurses can consider frequent or multiple sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or pregnancies a warning sign.
- Homeless or runaway youth who are in the position of surviving on their own may be forced to exchange sex for survival needs, such as housing or shelter. This can lead to recruitment into the commercial sex industry or more organized or regular trading of sex for money, shelter, or things of value.
- Youth living in group homes and youth shelters are targeted by exploiters for sexual exploitation.
- Family dysfunction – including abuse in the home (emotional, sexual, physical, etc.), neglect, absence of a caregiver, or substance abuse – is a major risk factor for CSEC, and therefore may be a warning sign.