Grooming is when someone builds an emotional connection with a child to gain their trust for the purposes of sexual abuse, sexual exploitation or trafficking. Children and young people can be groomed online or face-to-face, by a stranger or by someone they know - for example a family member, friend or professional. Groomers may be male or female. They could be any age. Many children and young people don't understand that they have been groomed or that what has happened is abuse.
Signs of grooming
The signs of grooming aren't always obvious and groomers will often go to great lengths not to be identified.
If a child is being groomed they may:
In older children, signs of grooming can easily be mistaken for 'normal' teenage behaviour, but you may notice unexplained changes in behaviour or personality, or inappropriate sexual behaviour for their age.
Grooming happens both online and in person. Groomers will hide their true intentions and may spend a long time gaining a child's trust. Groomers may try to gain the trust of a whole family to allow them to be left alone with a child and if they work with children they may use similar tactics with their colleagues.
Groomers do this by:
When sexual exploitation happens online, young people may be persuaded, or forced, to:
Abusers may threaten to send images, video or copies of conversations to the young person's friends and family unless they take part in other sexual activity.
Images or videos may continue to be shared long after the sexual abuse has stopped.