Grooming is when a person deliberately builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a person so they can manipulate, exploit and abuse them. Anybody can be a groomer, no matter their age, gender or race. The relationship a groomer builds can take different forms: a romantic relationship, as a mentor, as an authority figure or a dominant and persistent figure, and groomers may also build a relationship with the person's family or friends to make them seem trustworthy. The abuser can be someone they know a short time (days weeks) or long time (years) or a complete stranger.
Whether online or in person, groomers can use tactics like: pretending to be younger or giving advice or showing understanding, giving attention, buying gifts, taking them on trips, outings or holidays. Abusers use social media, messaging, email, voice and video chats, games and apps, and will used various methods to make contact, mostly in person so there is zero evidence.
A child or young adult is unlikely to know they've been groomed. They might be worried or confused and less likely to speak to an adult they would normally trust. Any child, young or old, boy or girl, is at risk of being groomed and it can have both short and long-term effects. Adults can also groom other adults. The impact of grooming can last a lifetime, no matter whether it happened in person, online or both.
If a person reveals abuse: listen carefully to what they're saying, let them know they've done the right thing by telling you, tell them it's not their fault, say you'll take them seriously, don't confront the alleged abuser, explain what you'll do next and report what you have been told as soon as possible to authorities or justice system.
There needs to be more protection online and offline from all types of abuse.
A child or young person might have difficulty sleeping, be anxious or struggle to concentrate or cope with school work. Signs of grooming are: they may become withdrawn, uncommunicative and angry or upset, have post-traumatic stress, difficulty coping with stress, suicidal thoughts, feelings of shame and guilt, anxiety, relationship problems with family friends and partners, depression, drug and alcohol problems, having an understanding of sex that's not appropriate for their age, having a secret or older 'friend' or new things like clothes and mobile phones that they can't or won't explain, spending more time away from home or going missing for periods of time, eating disorders, self-harm, sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy.
How much grooming coercion abuse is hidden?
What can raise more awareness and get more people reporting?