How do you recognize a survivor of Online Sexual Exploitation?

Irrespective of gender, age or geographical location any child could be prone to Online Sexual Exploitation. The Perpetrator could be an individual that contacted the child recently or an individual who has been in contact with the child for a longer period of time. It is a complex process to identify children being sexually exploited given the ever evolving nature of the online space. Following are some signs that would help you identify the problem:

  • Usage time of devices – Be extra vigilant if a child suddenly spends more or less time than usual on the phone or computer. Sometimes a child may have completely stopped using devices.
  • Deleting the account– This indicates that the individual feels that he/she is deprived of any help and tries to escape the situation. The abuse is bad enough for them to give up all their connections.
  • Asking support of a friend – Be mindful if a child asks you how he/she could block someone on social media.
  • Switching off the devices – Consider situations in which a child shuts down the computer or switches off the phone and keeps them aside. That will tell you a lot about what their experience is like.
  • Losing self-dignity – If you hear a child saying things such as “I am tired of life,” “I hate everyone” and “I can’t take this anymore”, listen to them.
  • Physical changes – Changes in consumption of food and sleep could be situations where the child needs more support. They might also show signs of excitement and anxiety when using these devices.

Apart from the above, you may be able to identify some of these also in a child who is subjected to grooming.  

  • Not revealing and been confidential on how they spend time in the internet and outside the internet.
  • Having a much older partner.
  • Usage of money, clothes, jewelry, devices etc. but the source they receive these are not expressed or there is lack of willingness to express.
  • Usage of drugs at a younger age.
  • Change the time they spend on internet and devices compared to the past.
  • Being anxious, upset and in a distressed mood.
  • Inappropriate level of understanding of sexual acts and abusive ways of communication compared to their age.
  • Prefer to spend more time out of home and been missing for periods of time.