Grooming Write For Us
Grooming can take place online or in person and it can happen over a short or long period of time, from days to years. A groomer can be a stranger or someone the victim already knows and trusts, for example through a friend or family member, by a friend of the family or a family member themselves, or by an authority figure at a club that they go to such as a sports club, or faith group. Groomers can build a relationship with their victims, for example as a teacher, mentor, coach, friend or romantically, or they can use other victims to entice their peers.
Groomers are good at lying about who they are, particularly online where they can create a false identity and pretend to be younger than they are.
People can be groomed online through, for example:
- Social media networks.
- Text messages and messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, TikTok.
- Text, voice and video chats in forums, games and apps.
Online grooming often involves adults creating fake profiles and posing as children or teens in order to befriend someone and gain their trust. This may be the first step towards sexual abuse or online stalking or harassment.
Although grooming can take many different forms, it often follows a similar pattern.
Victim selection – Abusers often observe possible victims and select them based on ease of access to them or their perceived vulnerability.
Gaining access and isolating the victim – Abusers will attempt to physically or emotionally separate a victim from those protecting them and often seek out positions in which they have contact with children, teens or young adults.
Trust development and keeping secrets – Abusers attempt to gain the trust of a potential victim through gifts, attention, sharing “secrets” and other means to make them feel that they have a caring relationship and to train them to keep the relationship secret.
Desensitisation to touch and discussion of sexual topics – Abusers will often start to touch a victim in ways that appear harmless, such as hugging, wrestling and tickling, and later escalate to increasingly more sexual contact, such as massages or showering together. Abusers may also show the victim pornography or discuss sexual topics with them, to introduce the idea of sexual contact.
What are the Signs of Grooming?
It can be very difficult to tell if someone is being groomed as the signs aren’t always obvious and may be hidden.
Some signs to look out for might include but are not limited to:
- Are they being secretive about how they are spending their time?
- Do they have an older boyfriend or girlfriend?
- Do they have money or new things like clothes and mobile phones that they can’t or won’t explain?
- Are they drinking or taking drugs?
- Are they spending more or less time than usual online or on their devices?
- Do they seem upset or withdrawn?
- Are they using sexual language you wouldn’t expect them to know?
- Are they spending more time away from home or going missing for periods of time?
Groomers/abusers attempt to make their behaviour seem natural to avoid raising suspicions. For teens, who may be closer in age to the abuser, it can be particularly hard to recognise tactics used in grooming.
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