What is Grooming? 
 
Grooming is the process by which an abuser builds a relationship with a child or young person, often to gain their trust for the purpose of sexual abuse or exploitation. This can involve giving gifts, special attention, or using manipulation and secrecy to isolate the victim from other. 

 

Groomers use the guise of teaching sexual health to expose children to sexually explicit or inappropriate material. This can be a tactic to normalize such content and desensitize children, making it easier for the abuser to manipulate and exploit them. 

 
People who engage in grooming behavior often deny or downplay their actions when confronted. They use manipulation, blame the victim, or claim that their intentions were misunderstood.  

 

Manipulation in the context of grooming refers to various tactics used by the abuser to control and influence the child or young person. These tactics can include:  

  • Emotional Manipulation: Making the child feel special, loved, or dependent on the abuser. 

  • Secrecy and Isolation: Encouraging the child to keep the relationship secret and isolating them from family and friends.  

  • Gifts and Favors: Giving gifts, money, or special privileges to build trust and a sense of obligation.  

  • Threats and Intimidation: Using threats, fear, or guilt to control the child and prevent them from seeking help.  

  • Flattery and Attention: Showering the child with excessive attention and praise to make them feel important and valued.  

  • Normalizing Behavior: Gradually introducing inappropriate behavior to make it seem normal and acceptable. 

  • These manipulation tactics are designed to break down the child's defenses and make them more compliant to the abuser's demands. 

 

Secrecy in the context of grooming involves the abuser encouraging or coercing the child to keep the relationship and interactions hidden from others. This can include:  

  • Encouraging Secrets: Convincing the child that their relationship is special and should be kept secret.  

  • Creating a Sense of Exclusivity: Making the child feel like they are part of a special, exclusive bond that others wouldn't understand.  

  • Threats and Consequences: Threatening the child with negative consequences if they tell anyone about the interactions or relationship.  

  • Minimizing the Situation: Downplaying the significance of the behavior and persuading the child that it's not worth mentioning to others.  

  • Isolating the Victim: Physically or emotionally isolating the child from family and friends to reduce the chances of disclosure and increase dependency on the abuser.  

  • These tactics of secrecy help the abuser maintain control over the child and continue their abusive behavior without detection. 

 

Example Scenario of using safe and inconclusive language to manipulate a child:  

Mr. T, a teacher at a middle school, often emphasizes the importance of creating a "safe and inclusive school environment" in his communications with students and parents. He promotes activities and discussions that encourage students to share their feelings and personal experiences, presenting himself as a supportive and trustworthy figure.  

During class, Mr. Tholds frequent "inclusivity circles" where students are encouraged to talk about their personal lives and any challenges they face. He tells the students that these circles are a safe space where they can share anything without fear of judgment. Mr. T uses these sessions to identify vulnerable students who may be seeking extra support and attention.  

He singles out a student named Jamie, who has recently been having trouble at home. Mr. T gives Jamie special attention, both during and outside of class, under the guise of providing support. He often tells Jamie that it's important to have someone they can trust and talk to about anything, emphasizing that he is always there for them.  

Mr. T begins to arrange private meetings with Jamie, saying that it's to help them feel more included and supported. During these meetings, he gradually starts to blur boundaries, sharing personal stories and encouraging Jamie to confide in him about more private matters. He assures Jamie that these conversations are part of creating a safe and inclusive environment and should be kept confidential.  

 

By framing his behavior within the context of building a safe and inclusive school, Mr. T manipulates Jamie and gains their trust, making it difficult for Jamie to recognize the inappropriate nature of his actions or to report them. This misuse of a "positive concept" can be a way for predators to groom children while appearing to uphold admirable values. 

 

Example Scenario of how a teacher might groom parents online to make them believe its behaviour is acceptable:  

Ms. P, a high school teacher, frequently communicates with parents through an online parent-teacher portal and social media. She posts regularly about her dedication to her students and her innovative teaching methods.  

Ms. P begins to develop a close online relationship with the parents of one of her students, Sarah. She often messages them privately, praising Sarah's potential and her own efforts to provide extra help outside of regular school hours. Ms. P shares photos and stories of her one-on-one sessions with Sarah, emphasizing how much Sarah benefits from the extra attention and how these sessions are crucial for her academic success.  

She also shares carefully curated testimonials from other parents and students, highlighting her dedication and the positive impact she has had on their children's education. These posts are designed to create an image of her as an exceptional and caring teacher.  

When Sarah's parents start to question the appropriateness of the extra sessions, Ms. P reassures them, saying things like, "Many parents have seen significant improvements in their children's performance thanks to these sessions," and "It's important to provide students with the support they need, even if it means going the extra mile."  

By creating a positive online persona and carefully manipulating information, Ms. P grooms Sarah's parents to trust her intentions and believe that her behavior is not only acceptable but beneficial. This makes it harder for them to see any potential red flags or to question her motives. 

Example Scenario of a teacher using manipulation:  

Mr. J, a middle school math teacher, has a student named Lily who is struggling with math. Mr. J starts by giving Lily extra attention, telling her that he believes she has great potential and that he can help her improve. He frequently keeps her after class for one-on-one tutoring sessions.  

During these sessions, Mr. J creates charts to track Lily's progress. However, he manipulates the data to show exaggerated improvements, even when her performance is only marginally better. He praises Lily excessively based on these charts, making her feel dependent on his guidance.  

In addition to the charts, Mr. J starts giving Lily small gifts, such as candy or extra credit points, and tells her to keep these interactions a secret because "other students might get jealous."  

Whenever Lily shows discomfort or hesitation, Mr. J uses emotional manipulation, saying things like, "I spend so much time helping you because I care about you. Don't you want to succeed?" or "You wouldn't want to disappoint me after all the effort I've put in, right?"  

By using manipulated charts and emotional manipulation, Mr. J creates a sense of dependency and secrecy, isolating Lily and making it difficult for her to recognize the inappropriate nature of his behavior or to speak out about it. 

 

Example Scenario of a teacher using sexual health topics to groom children:  

Ms. T, a middle school health education teacher, is responsible for teaching sexual health topics. She presents herself as a caring and approachable educator, encouraging students to feel comfortable discussing sensitive topics.  

During her lessons, Ms. T emphasizes the importance of understanding sexual health and invites students to ask questions privately if they feel uncomfortable speaking up in class. She encourages an open-door policy, inviting students to meet with her one-on-one for additional guidance and support.  

Ms. T identifies a student, Jamie, who seems particularly curious and engaged during these lessons. She offers to provide Jamie with extra help and support, arranging private tutoring sessions to discuss any questions Jamie might have.  

In these private sessions, Ms. T initially reviews the standard curriculum but gradually introduces more detailed content, presenting it as important for Jamie’s understanding of sexual health. She frames this information as advanced knowledge that Jamie would benefit from and suggests that it’s okay to keep these sessions private to avoid making other students feel left out.  

As the sessions continue, Ms. T shares personal anecdotes and encourages Jamie to talk about personal experiences and feelings, assuring them that it’s all part of a healthy educational process. She creates a sense of exclusivity and secrecy, telling Jamie that they have a special understanding and that Jamie can trust her completely.  

By framing her behavior as part of a legitimate educational process, Ms. T manipulates Jamie, making it difficult for Jamie to recognize the inappropriateness of the situation or to feel comfortable reporting it. This misuse of sexual health education is a tactic that some individuals might use to exploit their positions of authority and trust. 

 

Example Scenario of a teacher using sexual health topics to groom children: 

Mr. R is a high school health education teacher who teaches sexual health as part of the curriculum. He is known for being very approachable and encourages students to ask questions and seek help if they feel uncomfortable about any topics.  

During one of his sexual health classes, Mr. R emphasizes the importance of understanding one's own body and being comfortable with discussing sexual health matters. He offers extra help sessions for students who feel they need more information or a private space to discuss sensitive topics.  

Mr. R identifies a student named Jamie who seems shy and less knowledgeable about the subject. He offers Jamie private tutoring sessions after school to help them catch up and feel more confident about the material. Jamie, wanting to do well and feeling special about the extra attention, agrees to these sessions.  

In these one-on-one sessions, Mr. R gradually introduces more explicit content than what is necessary for Jamie's age and education level. He explains detailed sexual practices under the guise of education, claiming it is important for Jamie to know these things to be fully informed. He also begins to ask Jamie personal questions about their own sexual thoughts and experiences, framing it as a way to tailor the education to Jamie's needs.  

Mr. R gives Jamie books and online resources that are more graphic and inappropriate for a high school student, insisting that these will help Jamie understand the subject better. He stresses that these sessions and materials should be kept confidential, suggesting that other students and even parents might not understand the educational value of this information.  

By presenting his actions as part of a thorough and caring educational approach, Mr. R manipulates Jamie into accepting and engaging with inappropriate content. Jamie feels confused but trusts Mr. R due to his position as a teacher and the apparent educational context of their interactions.