Home →

Red Flags of child sex abusers from an ex-child abuse detective

Whilst interviewing children about their child sexual abuse, I noticed recurring patterns and behaviours being shared by the children I was talking to both in regards to in-person abuse and online exploitation. They would describe how their abusers would similarly groom them, keep them complicit and how they would ensure their silence. 


Although not all abuse was the same, I noticed these recurring behaviours by the abusers and wondered why we weren't openly talking about them and sharing them with parents and caregivers, especially since this information could literally stop other kids from being abused! It made me realise that if parent's knew what I knew, they would probably do things a lot differently in regards to their children and the kids in their lives and hence why I wrote Operation KidSafe. Because I wanted parents and caregivers to have this information because I wanted kids to be safe!

  •   They target kids who are vulnerable and lacking supervision or support or someone to talk to. Because a child without these feels like they have no where to turn. 
  •   They build close relationships with not only the child but the family (if they aren't already a member of the family) in the case of in-person abuse because they want to be trusted by the family/parents/caregivers. 
  •   They put themselves in a position where they can have unsupervised access with young children and teenagers eg. Babysitting, sleep-overs, driving to activities, online conversations, camping etc. 
  •   They target kids who are easily led, manipulated, tricked or coerced into doing things they many not want to do but still want to please the abuser. They may lack self-esteem, have low confidence, be too young to know better or have not been taught about protective behaviours and their bodily rights. 
  •   Abusers are super secretive and protective about their phone and devices and won't often let anyone go near them or look at them. 
  •   In the case of in-person abuse, they will find reasons to get the child naked or semi-naked when it's not necessary eg. Showering or bathing, getting down to underwear when not necessary, toileting. 
  •   They spend time with children in their rooms with the doors closed or locked. 
  •   They stay up late at night when everyone has gone to bed watching their devices, computer, phone. 

These are a few red flags/warning signs that I shared in my book along with others. They seem so simple when written out but personal relationships, families and interpersonal connections are often not simple or easy.

I believe you can never be too cautious or protective when it comes to children and their safety. With 90% of child sexual abuse happening by someone known to them it really is imperative that we educate ourselves and talk about it because that is how we stop abuse. 

Want to learn more? Check out the Operation KidSafe Book Club, follow our socials InstagramFacebookTikTok or purchase a signed copy of Operation KidSafe - a detective's guide to child abuse prevention.