Warning signs that your child may be a victims of sexual exploitation
Children typically will not talk about what is happening to them if they are being sexually abused or exploited. The best thing parents and caregivers can do is to know the “Red Flags” and act on them when they’re identified. The signs below are not a guarantee that a child is being sex trafficked or exploited but are indicators that a child should talk to a trained professional who knows how to assess and treat the child for possible trauma. Victims will display different signs based on age and the level of trauma experienced. The presence of these signs is significant and may suggest trauma other than sex trafficking, exploitation or abuse.
Parents and Caregivers should be alert to the following “Red Flags”:
· Extreme changes in behavior, such as loss of appetite, increased anxiety, depression and Fear.
· Sleeping issues such as nightmares, bed-wetting, fear of sleeping alone, or loss of sleep
· Regression to a lower developmental stage or getting stuck in a developmental stage
· Isolating from friends, family, parents, teachers
· Reduced school performance, truancy
· Inability to concentrate, excessive daydreaming, zoning out
· Developmentally inappropriate interest in or knowledge of sexual matters, or sexualized activity or conversations
· Fear or intense dislike of a specific person or being left in a particular place
· Resistance to removing clothing at appropriate times,
· Sexually acting out,
· Initiating sexual behaviors or engaging other children into inappropriate sexualized play
· Playing out sexual scenarios with toys or dolls
· Aggressive or disruptive behavior,
· Running away, or delinquent behavior
· Suicide attempts
· Alcohol or drug use
· Possess items that they could not buy on their own
· Has a boyfriend who is more than two years older than the child
· Hides phone and online communications
· Lying and inconsistencies in life stories
· Involvement or attraction to gang activity
· Bleeding or scaring in the Vagina or rectum
· Painful, itching, swollen genitals, vaginal discharge
· Sexually transmitted diseases
· Bladder or urinary infection
· Difficulty swallowing,
· Pain going to the bathroom,
· Bruises, scares or other signs of physical abuse
· Branding or tattoos that show ownership
Responding to Child Sex Trafficking, Exploitation or Abuse
What should you do if a child discloses sexual abuse?
· Remain calm to avoid further psychological damage to the child. Let the child tell you what happened in his or her own words. Do not try to coach the child or interpret what the child is trying to say. Do not pressure the child to talk. Leave the investigation to a trained professional.
· Tell the child you are glad they disclosed to you and that the abuse is not their fault. Support the child no matter what.
· If the child was recently sexually abused, do not let the child bathe, shower, swim or clean up in any manner.
· Seek medical attention for the child. The child may have injuries or sexually transmitted diseases that are not noticeable. The child may also need a forensic medical exam.
· Be supportive. With proper treatment and support a child can develop a positive and healthy outlook.