Warning Signs:  the Red Flags of Sex Trafficking

  • Use of slang from “the life”, or referring to a boyfriend as “daddy.”
  • Unaccounted time, vagueness or secrecy concerning whereabouts
  • Keeping late-nights or unusual hours
  • Wearing sexually provocative clothing. It should be noted that not all children in the commercial sex industry wear such clothing, and sexually provocative clothing is not a warning sign in and of itself. Wearing new clothes of any style, or getting hair or nails done with no financial means to do this independently is a more general indicator of potential sexual exploitation.
  • Tattoos.  Youth are commonly branded with their exploiter’s name tattooed on the neck, chest, or arms.
  • Lies about their age.  Be sensitive to clues in behavior or appearance that could indicate that a child is lying about their age.
  • An explicitly sexual social media profile
  • Alludes to sexual exploitation in drawing, poetry, or other creative expression. Prints lyrics to music that allude to the sex industry.
  • Frequent or multiple sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancies
  • Homeless or runaway youth.  They 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 a more organized or regular trading of sex for money, shelter or things of value.
  • Youth living in group homes and youth shelters.
  • 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.
  • Family dysfunction (emotional, sexual or physical abuse, neglect, absent caregiver, substance abuse).  Abuse is a major risk factor for commecially sexually exploited children and therefore may be a warning sign.

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