No One Chooses to be Exploited

To help these young people, it’s important to remember that no one chooses to be exploited. Exploiters use violence, threats and manipulation to control A young woman sits resting her chin in her hand.their victims psychologically and financially.

Signs of Sexual Exploitation

Identifying victims is often difficult. They move or are moved frequently. They don’t trust adults and are particularly fearful of law enforcement. Often, they don’t think of themselves as victims. However, some signs include:

  • Highly controlled or restricted schedule, money or communications
  • Unidentifiable source of income
  • Unexplained absences of days at a time
  • Unexplained source of new clothing and personal items
  • Bruises or other physical signs of abuse
  • A tattoo that the young person is reluctant to explain (for instance, being “branded” with an exploiter’s name on the neck, chest or arms)
  • Isolation from family, friends or other social networks
  • Secrecy or vagueness about whereabouts
  • Gaps in life story or defensiveness in response to questions or concerns
  • Paranoia or lack of trust
  • Self-blame or feelings of humiliation or shame
  • Disassociation or lack of connection to the outside world
  • Malnourishment
  • Untreated health and dental problems
National Clearinghouse on Families & Youth | 5515 Security Lane, Suite 800 | North Bethesda, MD 20852 | (301) 608-8098 |