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Grooming is illegal and can carry a sentence of up to 14 years (UK). Could it be happening under your nose?

Grooming is illegal and can carry a sentence of up to 14 years (UK). Could it be happening under your nose?
10k Schools

Author: 10k Schools

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Child sexual exploitation (CSE) is a distressing form of sexual abuse wherein offenders utilize their power, whether physical, financial, or emotional, to exploit a child or young person.


This exploitation can take various forms, occurring in person or online, and victims may not always recognize they are being victimized. Perpetrators of child sexual exploitation may gain the trust of potential child victims and their caregivers by methodically “grooming” them. They are often known to the family or associated with organizations and activities involving children, employing grooming tactics to gain trust and initiate sexually or emotionally abusive relationships.

Grooming also involves the coercive manipulation of colleagues /friends to turn the other way and accept an individuals behaviour as a ‘norm’. Let’s not be fooled, it is part of a well-orchestrated plan to gain access to those at great risk – our children.

Recently, a survey conducted by Michael Salter asked 1,945 Australian men about their sexual feelings and behaviour towards children. The survey generated some eye-opening statistics:

  • One in ten men admitted to committing a child sex offence
  • One in six men reported sexual attraction to children
  • One in twenty men want help for their sexual feelings towards children.

The report focused in particular on 4.9% (95) of the Australian men who have sexual feelings and have offended against children. These men were:

  • more likely to be married
  • had strong social networks
  • almost 3x more likely to work with children

Grooming is a strategic process that includes several steps:

  1. Identifying and Targeting the Victim: Predators may show interest in a child or young person, offering them something in return for participation in sexual activities.
  2. Gaining Trust and Access: Offenders observe and assess the child’s vulnerabilities to establish contact, offering special attention, understanding, and sympathy to gain friendship and trust.
  3. Playing a Role in the Child’s Life: Manipulating the relationship to appear exclusive, where the offender is the only one who understands or meets the child’s needs, exploiting the youth’s empathy.
  4. Isolating the Child: Offenders may separate the child from others by offering rides or taking them away from familiar surroundings, ensuring privacy for potential abuse.
  5. Creating Secrecy Around the Relationship: Reinforcing a special connection through private communication, admonishing against disclosure, and using threats to discourage the child from reporting the abuse.
  6. Initiating Sexual Contact: With emotional coercion established, the offender gradually introduces physical contact, desensitizing the child to more overtly sexualized touching.
  7. Controlling the Relationship: Relying on secrecy to keep the relationship hidden, perpetrators manipulate the child, often using threats or fear to prevent disclosure.

Child sexual exploitation can manifest in various forms, including inappropriate relationships, partnerships, organized exploitation and trafficking, forced marriage, and grooming. Grooming specifically involves engaging in predatory conduct to prepare a child or young person for sexual activity at a later time.

Online Grooming:
Online grooming involves groomers utilizing social media, instant messaging apps, or online gaming platforms to connect with young people or children. The anonymity provided by online platforms allows groomers to easily conceal their true identity, presenting themselves as younger individuals and establishing friendships with children.

Groomers employ various online platforms to contact the same child, utilizing information gathered from the young person’s online profiles and posts to build a relationship. Once a connection is established, groomers may encourage the child to communicate through private or encrypted messaging services. Online grooming has risen 82% over the last 5 years (NSPCC).

Unfortunately, the Australian data is mirrored in other countries. New research carried out by The Lucy Faithfull Foundation (UK) found more than one in four UK adults regularly speak with people they do not know online.

When asked what they would do if they were to find out that the person they’re speaking with is under 16, 1 in 10 men over the age of 25 stated they wouldn’t immediately stop the conversation. Though not illegal for an adult to have an online conversation with someone under the age of 16, in the UK it is illegal for an adult to engage in sexual communications with someone under 16 – online grooming.

Identifying signs of child sexual exploitation is crucial. Warning signs include regular absences, changes in behaviour, dishonesty about whereabouts, unusually close connections with older individuals, mood changes, altered language, and possession of items or money without explanation.

It is vital for professionals and community members to stay vigilant, recognize signs of grooming or child sexual exploitation, and report suspicions promptly. Grooming is a criminal offense, and reporting is crucial in protecting vulnerable children and young people from abuse. Every child, regardless of age, background, or vulnerability, can be at risk, and identifying signs and reporting concerns are pivotal steps in safeguarding their well-being.


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