Grooming is the carefully planned process by which a perpetrator builds a relationship, trust and emotional connection with a child or young person in order to establish control for the purpose of exploiting, manipulating and abusing them.
Grooming is like a process of recruitment where young people are introduced to a lifestyle which appears appealing but which is actually abusive. This may take place online or offline and could include violence, lies, blackmail and threats. Once groomed the child or young person is expected to take part in sexual activity often in exchange for something.
Perpetrators can be any age, background, gender or race. The grooming process can happen very quickly, within a matter of weeks, or over a number of years. Groomers may also befriend the young person's family and friends in order to build a position of trust or authority. Often they are well-liked, articulate and believable. Grooming can also happen between young people and within peer groups.
It is never the young person’s fault if they are groomed and exploited.
There are different models of grooming:
The ‘Relationship’ Model
The perpetrator will befriend and groom a child or young person into a ‘relationship’. This may be by showering the child or young person with attention and gifts. The relationship will become abusive and the perpetrator then coerces or forces them to have sex with friends or associates. Services have reported a rise in peer exploitation where children or young people are forced or coerced into sexual activity by peers and associates. Sometimes (but not always) this can be associated with gang activity.
This model is often referred to as the ‘Boyfriend’ Model however this does not take into account that boys and young men can also be sexually exploited in this way.
The Story of Jay video:
This usually involves one perpetrator and the relationship will be characterised by an imbalance of power. The perpetrator has physical, emotional or financial control over the child or young person. One indicator may be a significant age gap. The child or young person may believe they are in a loving relationship.
Organised Exploitation (Trafficking Model)
Young people are passed through networks, sometimes across the country, internationally or even between local houses or hotels, where they may be forced or coerced into sexual activity with multiple men. Often this occurs at ‘sex parties’, and young people who are involved may be used to recruit other young people into the network. Some of this activity is described as serious organised crime by the NCA and can involve the organised ‘buying and selling’ of young people by perpetrators.
High profile cases:
Peer on Peer Exploitation
Children and young people can be recruited, groomed or sexually exploited by a child or young person of a similar age. They might be known to them at school, in the neighbourhood or through mutual friends. Peer on peer abuse includes: domestic abuse and violence, CSE, harmful sexual behaviour and serious youth violence.
There are also other forms of sexual bullying amongst peers that can happen quickly without a grooming process. Young people isolated from their peers can be at greater risk as they try to gain popularity. Incidents can be filmed on mobile phones and then shared at the victims expense.
The Party Model
Parties are organised to lure young people. They might be held at a private residence, bar, club or other venue and children or young people that have been invited might be persuaded to bring friends along. Grooming can take place in the course of an evening with drinks being bought, possibly drugs given out and transport provided free. The expectation is that there will be sexual reward in return. Drugs and alcohol might be used to suppress the children’s resistance. Images of them may be taken without their clothes for the purpose of future bribery (sextortion).
Me, Jenny & Kate Video:
This happens when a perpetrator targets, befriends and grooms a child or young person over the internet (e.g. via online gaming), using a mobile phone and/or through social networks. Children may believe they are talking to someone of similar age, but this is not always the case. Children or young people may be convinced to post photographs or videos of themselves online. Sextortion may occur.
Brek’s Last Game - The grooming of Breck Bednar: