Grooming is the online practice, exerted deliberately by an adult, of establishing a relationship and emotional control over a minor, with the intention of abusing of them and/or to make a profit from it.
Groomers (people who exert this kind of activity in order to damage the child) can be either men or women, regardless of age or socioeconomic status. This kind of actions can happen online and offline. Most of the time, groomers invest an enormous amount of time in gaining a child's trust. They use a number of strategies, namely pretending to be someone else, being understanding and offering advice, giving presents… They always use devices in order to do so and they get away with it because teenagers are unaware of the risk of using such devices.
Groomers seduce children through persuasive speech and get their personal and contact details. Little by little, they start sending pornographic images, and manage to make the child perform sexual acts. Groomers resort to “secrets” in order to control and scare the minor, who feels ashamed or guilty and does not report the abuse.
There are two aspects in grooming: physical and psychological. Physical Grooming involves gradual desensitisation to touch and sexualisation of the contact. Psychological Grooming is used to achieve this increased sexualisation through the use of bribes and threats.
The main risks minors face in grooming situations are the following:
- Sexual abuse: this is the ultimate goal. The assailant looks for their sexual satisfaction with minors. This kind of abuse can have a traumatic effect on the victim.
- Privacy loss: this risk refers to spreading these types of images across the net, without the victim's consent.
- Feeling of deception: the groomer tricks the victim into fulfilling their demands, and the minor has to face the fact that no longer control what they are sharing.
- Blackmail: minors can suffer any kind of blackmail by the aggressor.
- Pornography: minors can be involved in child pornography and the psychological and legal consequences this implies.
- Loss of self-esteem: in many cases, victims can feel humiliated and used.
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.