What is grooming?
Grooming refers to a process whereby the abuser establishes a relationship of trust with a child or young person and exploits it to entice them into sexual acts. Grooming happens online using either a computer, tablet or smart phone. Enticing children or young people for sexual purposes is a crime.
In the grooming process, the abuser builds an image of themselves as someone the children or young people can trust and confide to. The abuser may approach the children or young people through the Internet by sending positive messages, such as of the appearance, maturity, courage, independence or speciality of the child or the young person.
The abuser often pretends to be a friend, is supportive, praising, and “genuinely” interested in the life of the children or young people. The abuser may attempt to manipulate the children or young people by giving them money, buying them stuff, or promising to take them to events. The abuser strives to be approachable and understand the child’s or adolescent’s day-to-day life. Children or young people feel the attention, hope, experience, time, appreciation, comfort, and understanding they get as rewarding, for example.
The abuser begins to ask intimate and personal questions once the relationship of trust has been established, for example regarding adolescence growth and development, sexuality or sex. The abuser may also ask for intimate and revealing photos/videos, or ask the children or young people to masturbate on webcam, for example. The abuser may also show their genitals or their own masturbation through the webcam.
Once trust is established, the abuser will be able to build a base for a shared secret using the conversations and/or uploaded photos/videos. A significant part of grooming is that the abuser tries to persuade the children or young people to keep the secret through a mutual agreement.
If the children have no knowledge of what issues can be safely discussed or what kind of photos/videos they can send of themselves, they may begin to answer the questions and requests out of kindness, reciprocity or interest.
If you are subjected to grooming online, follow these steps:
- Save conversations and photos/videos by capturing them with a screenshot.
- If you receive text messages, keep those as well.
- Block the abuser from contacting you.
- Report what happened to the police. You can also ask the online police for advice.
Talk about it with a familiar and safe adult to avoid being left alone.
Youth Service Experts, the Family Federation of Finland