Grooming is a process of getting someone ready to do whatever is asked of them by their abuser. It means working to build an emotional connection, complete trust and reliance, often isolating the victim completely from their support network – friends, family etc.
Once a person has been groomed, they can then be led into a number of situations they may not otherwise enter – such as sexual exploitation, criminal exploitation, extremism or financial exploitation.
If someone is being groomed, it won’t feel scary and wrong, it will feel exciting and special. Grooming is a process of building trust so that a person will often feel loved and understood. They will think they have control, that they are getting what they want and that they have changed or grown up to fit in with new friends.
Generally, they will feel happy and confident throughout this period, looking forward to new opportunities and potentially experiencing new things for the first time (such as parties, drinking and drugs), not realising they are in any danger.
A person will find themselves being asked or forced to do sexual things with their partner, or someone else, that they don’t want to do. They will often be told that there is no other option, that they owe someone.
This could be because they have been given gifts, affection, a place to stay or because they think their partner is in trouble and that this is a way they can help them.
Exploitation feels completely different to grooming but is only possible once someone has been groomed to a point where they are almost dependent on their abuser. They will often feel like it is normal, that it is just how a relationship works, they are in love and no-one else matters, being manipulated into believing that it is OK.
Often they will feel like they owe their abuser, that there is no going back and sometimes that they deserve it. No one deserves to be exploited. When it comes to walking away a victim will feel threatened, scared, trapped and humiliated. They might be pressured to get their friends involved and often feel that no one will believe them.
Some of these can just be signs of growing up, we all change as we grow up. However, if you spot several of these in your friend it might be worth speaking to them or a trusted adult about the situation. Check out the Who Can Help? section for more information!
“When someone you trusted makes you commit crimes for their benefit.” D, aged 12
It is when a young person finds themselves being asked, or forced, to do criminal things for someone else. Whilst initially they may feel part of a group or even a family, over time they will be told that there is no other option, that they owe someone, owe money or should do things out of loyalty.
Criminal exploitation can involve a young person moving drugs, sometimes hidden in their body, around their local area or sometimes travelling across the country. The exploited person can be made to sell drugs, transport weapons or carry out other criminal activities, such as assaulting people and stealing.
It’s a complicated issue because although what a young person is doing can sometimes be a criminal behaviour if they are being manipulated and controlled they are actually a victim of crime themselves.
Victims are groomed, sometimes by being given money, attention, status, gifts and promises of a better life. The might feel part of a group or a family so are often willing to help.
Victims often don’t feel that they are risk and it is not until it is too late or heavily involved that they realise just how bad things are for them.
Victims might find themselves doing things that they know are wrong, dangerous or uncomfortable, such as lots of travelling or hiding drugs inside their body.
One tactic some groups use to rob the young people carrying larger sums of money or drugs and then claiming that it was their fault so they have to repay the debt; meaning that they are trapped in a situation where they have to work for no money against their wishes.
Victims might feel like they owe their ‘family’ and that there is no going back. They might feel or be told that they’ll be hurt or worse if they leave. They may be forced to stay with threats made against their family if they try to leave. They will feel trapped, scared and probably angry. They might be pressured to get their friends involved and often feel that no one will believe them or that people will judge them and just see them as criminals.
No one deserves to be exploited.