Grooming and Child Sexual Exploitation
An adults and older adolescent may groom a child with the intention to sexually abuse or exploit them in the future.
They may attempt to form a ‘special’ friendship or relationship by building trust, an emotional connection with, or power over the child. The person doing the grooming may be someone known already by the child or a stranger.
Grooming can be made up of a range of behaviours which are not necessarily sexual act or acts of abuse. It may be very hard to identify grooming while it is happening and it may happen over a long period of time.
A perpetrator manipulates the social, organisation or family environment so they are in a position that allows them access to a child. Step by step they attempt to build trust or power so the child becomes compliant in the sexual abuse or exploitation.
Grooming may continue so the abuser can maintain power over the child and conceal the abuse. They might receive gifts, money, drugs, alcohol or attention from their abuser or the person exploiting the child to others to sexually abuse.
The grooming and exploitation can take place online or in person, or a combination of both.
Not all grooming leads to child sexual abuse and not all child sexual abuse includes grooming.
Children particularly vulnerable to sexual exploitation include those who have already suffered child abuse, children with low self-esteem, or children without a supportive parent or care giver.
A child who has been groomed and sexually abused or exploited may trust their abuser and not realise they are being abused. They may feel like they can’t tell anyone else or that they won’t be believed if they do.
Get to know the signs
Signs and symptoms of grooming or sexual exploitation can include:
- unexplained gifts including new mobile phones, clothes or cash
- advanced sexual knowledge or harmful sexual behaviours
- being secretive about who they are meeting, what they are doing online or where they are going
- access to drugs and alcohol
- unexplained absences from school or home
- other signs of child sexual abuse