HOW TO RECOGNISE SIGNS OF ABUSE & EXPLOITATION #KNOWTHESIGNS

HOW TO RECOGNISE SIGNS OF ABUSE & EXPLOITATION #KNOWTHESIGNS

Child abuse and exploitation are often hidden issues which are difficult to identify. The signs aren’t always obvious, and a child might not feel able to tell anyone what’s happening to them. Sometimes, children don’t even realise that what’s happening to them is abuse.
Knowing the signs of abuse and exploitation can help give a voice to children.
Information relating to child safety and protection from abuse and exploitation may bring up strong feelings. Remember, you are not alone. If you need assistance or support, you can access a list of dedicated services on our Finding Help page. 
Child abuse and exploitation are often hidden issues which are difficult to identify. The signs aren’t always obvious, and a child might not feel able to tell anyone what’s happening to them. Sometimes, children don’t even realise that what’s happening to them is abuse.
Knowing the signs of abuse and exploitation can help give a voice to children.
Information relating to child safety and protection from abuse and exploitation may bring up strong feelings. Remember, you are not alone. If you need assistance or support, you can access a list of dedicated services on our Finding Help page. 

Signs of Child Abuse and Exploitation

Some common signs of child abuse and exploitation include:

  • Unexplained changes in behaviour or personality
  • Becoming withdrawn or more distant than usual
  • Unusual or new fears, sometimes around touch, being alone, being with a particular person or in a particular place
  • Difficulty concentrating or with memory, zoning out, seeming distracted or not listening
  • Problems with friends and schoolwork/attendance
  • Extreme attention-seeking behaviour, disruptive or aggressive behaviour and bullying
  • Regressive behaviours such as bed-wetting or soiling after being toilet trained, acting or wanting to be treated like a baby/younger child again
  • Knowledge of adult issues or sexual behaviour inappropriate for their age
  • Running away or going missing
  • Always choosing to wear clothes which cover their body
  • A high level of distrust of other people
  • Unable to explain injuries or other physical symptoms

Signs of Grooming

It can be difficult to tell if a child is being groomed – the signs aren’t always obvious and may be hidden.

Some common signs of a child being groomed include:

  • Being very secretive about how they’re spending their time, including when online
  • Having an older boyfriend or girlfriend
  • Having money or new things like clothes and mobile phones that they can’t or won’t explain
  • Underage drinking or drug taking
  • Spending more or less time online or on their devices
  • Being upset, withdrawn or distressed
  • Sexualised behaviour, language or an understanding of sex that’s not appropriate for their age
  • Spending more time away from home or going missing for periods of time.

Australia’s eSafety Commissioner also helps parents and carers deal with unwanted contact and grooming online. Visit https://www.esafety.gov.au/parents/issues-and-advice/grooming-or-unwanted-contact for help, support and advice about protecting children when they are online.


These signs don’t necessarily mean that a child is being abused, exploited or groomed. There could be other things happening in their life which are affecting their behaviour – if you feel any doubt, call your local helpline for support or contact your local child protection authorities.