Published Tuesday, 27 November 2012
There is concern that parents are not aware of the warning signs. (© Getty)
According to a survey conducted for Barnardos NI, only 42% of mums and dads thought consistently returning home late was a sign abuse could be taking place.
Just 46% see associating with older children or adults as a warning flag.
There are greater levels of awareness about another indicators - however parents may still not recognise them as issues that would concern them.
Launching a new campaign to raise awareness, Jacqui Montgomery-Devlin from Barnados said: "This is a horrible and pernicious crime that everybody needs to be aware of.
"Vulnerable girls and boys, who crave love and attention, are groomed then abused in the most callous and calculated way, leaving them deeply traumatised and possibly scarred for life. Yet victims continue to go unidentified as telltale signs are overlooked.
"I want mothers, fathers, professionals and young people to have the confidence in spotting these signs. The earlier abuse is identified, the earlier we can stop it."