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Grooming is when a person builds a relationship with a child, young person or an adult who's at risk so they can abuse them and manipulate them into doing things. The abuse is usually sexual or financial, but it can also include other illegal acts. Types of grooming Grooming can take place online or in person and it can happen over a short or long period of time - from days to years.

Online Groomers are good at lying about who they are, particularly online where they can create a false identity and pretend to be younger than they are. People can be groomed online through:

  • social media networks

  • text messages and messaging apps, like WhatsApp

  • email

  • text, voice and video chats in forums, games and apps

In person A groomer can be a stranger or someone the victim already knows and trusts, for example through a friend or family, or at a club they go to. Signs of grooming It can be difficult to tell if someone is being groomed – the signs aren't always obvious and may be hidden. Some signs to look out for:

  • Are they being secretive about how they're spending their time?

  • Do they have an older boyfriend or girlfriend?

  • Do they have money or new things like clothes and mobile phones that they can't or won't explain?

  • Are they drinking or taking drugs?

  • Are they spending more or less time than usual online or on their devices?

  • Do they seem upset or withdrawn?

  • Are they using sexual language you wouldn’t expect them to know?

  • Are they spending more time away from home or going missing for periods of time?

A person won't know they're being groomed, they will trust their abuser who is giving them lots of attention and gifts. Also, their groomer may have warned them not to talk to anyone about it.

Report it Grooming is an offence. If you suspect a person is being groomed, even if you’re not sure, please tell someone. If you think you're being groomed, you should tell someone.

If you or someone else is in danger right now Is someone about to be attacked or hurt? Is a crime taking place right now? If yes, call 999 and ask for the police. If you have a hearing or speech impairment, use our textphone service 18000 or text us on 999 if you’ve pre-registered with the emergencySMS service.

If you're in danger but you can't talk on the phone, you should still call 999, then follow these instructions. If it isn't an emergency you can report grooming to us:

  • online

  • by calling 101

  • if you have a hearing or speech impairment, use our textphone service on 18001 101.

Further advice and support National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) A charity working to prevent abuse and help children and their families when abuse has happened. Helpline 0808 800 5000 Child Exploitation and Online Protection (CEOP) A law enforcement agency keeping children and young people safe from sexual exploitation and abuse. Childline A free, private and confidential service where children can talk to a trained counsellor about anything that’s troubling them, any time of day. Lucy Faithfull Foundation A UK-wide charity set up to tackle child sexual abuse. Victim Support A national charity dedicated to helping anyone affected by crime – not just victims and witnesses, but friends, family and anyone else caught up in the aftermath. How to stay safe online Get Safe Online and Net Aware provide advice on staying safe online. Thinkuknow An education programme keeping children and young people safe by teaching about sexual abuse and sexual exploitation.

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