Common signs that someone is being exploited include the following (please note that this is not an exhaustive list and that warning signs will show themselves differently in each person):
- friendships, relationships or association with controlling individuals or groups
- isolation from peers and social networks
- unexplained injuries, ill health, or suspicion of assault
- changes in emotional wellbeing
- changes in behaviour or lifestyle
- going missing
- concerning use of the internet, social media or mobile phones
- unexplained acquisition, or loss, of money or personal items
- signs of being groomed.
It is also helpful to be aware of the following:
- the above signs can be wrongly attributed to other factors or misinterpreted as stereotypical behaviours associated with particular lifestyles or groups
- grooming and exploitation are usually gradual processes – changes in someone’s appearance, behaviour and personal circumstances are often small, gradual, and may not be noticed immediately
- sometimes people appear more upbeat, happy or confident than usual – they may be unaware that they are being exploited or view their involvement positively, especially if they have been groomed.
It is therefore important to question what these signs mean and to consider whether there is anything else about the person’s behaviour or personal circumstances that gives you cause for concern.