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Child Sexual Exploitation - vulnerability indicators (Situational / environmental)

There are aspects in every child or young person's historical or current circumstances which may make them more vulnerable to being targeted and/or groomed for CSE.

Whilst these indicators can be usefully used to identify potential cases of CSE, it is important to note that their presence does not necessarily mean that CSE is occurring. More importantly, nor does their absence, mean that it is not. A willingness to exercise professional curiosity and engage with children (and their wider support networks) is therefore critical to our potential to identify CSE.

The following is a list of CSE vulnerability indicators:

  • A history of abuse (including familial sexual abuse and emotional abuse)
  • A history of neglect
  • Being looked after, or formerly looked after
  • Disrupted family life, including family breakdown, separation; divorce; historic / ongoing domestic violence and/or problematic parenting
  • Living in a chaotic/dysfunctional households
  • Disengagement from education and isolation from other support mechanisms
  • Going missing from home or care environments - regularly/frequently
  • Problematic parental alcohol and/or drug use
  • Parental mental ill-health and/or parental learning disabilities
  • Homelessness; living in hostel, bed and breakfast or homeless accommodation (especially longer term)
  • Poor health and wellbeing, social exclusion; social isolation
  • Low self-esteem; low self-confidence; poor self-image; eating disorders
  • Recent bereavement or loss
  • Being in a state of poverty; financial hardship; unemployment
  • Having a disability - particularly autistic spectrum disorder or a learning disability
  • Experiencing bullying in and/or out of school
  • Involvement in crime/offending
  • Online vulnerability and lack of recognition of risk in the online world
  • Uncertainty of sexual orientation/or unable to disclose to family and friends
  • Risk of forced marriage/honour based violence / female genital mutilation
  • Links with other young people who are sexually exploited


Last modified on 18 October 2018

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